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Mol Microbiol. 1994 Mar;11(6):1009-17.

The growth phase-dependent synthesis of cyclopropane fatty acids in Escherichia coli is the result of an RpoS(KatF)-dependent promoter plus enzyme instability.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801.


The formation of cyclopropane fatty acids (CFAs) in Escherichia coli is a post-synthetic modification of the phospholipid bilayer that occurs predominantly as cultures enter the stationary phase of growth. The mechanism of this growth phase-dependent regulation of CFA synthesis was unclear, since log-phase and stationary-phase cultures had been reported to contain similar levels of the enzyme catalysing the reaction (CFA synthase). We report that the timing of CFA synthesis can be explained by two unusual features. Fist, the gene encoding CFA synthase (cfa) was found to be transcribed from two promoters and the 5' ends of both transcripts were mapped by primer extension. One of the promoters was active only during the log-to-stationary phase transition and depended on the putative sigma factor encoded by the rpoS(katF) gene whereas the other promoter had a standard sigma 70 promoter consensus sequence and was expressed throughout the growth curve. Second, CFA synthase activity was shown to be unstable in vivo and a Cfa fusion protein was found to have a half life of < 5 min. The combination of these factors meant that, although CFA synthase was synthesized throughout the growth curve, a large increase in activity occurred during the log-to-stationary phase transition. As stationary phase progressed, the increased CFA synthase activity rapidly declined to the basal level. This transient increase in CFA synthase activity coupled with the cessation of net phospholipid synthesis in stationary phase provides an explanation for the unusual time course of CFA synthesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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