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Mol Microbiol. 1993 May;8(4):697-706.

Phosphate starvation and low temperature as well as ultraviolet irradiation transcriptionally induce the Escherichia coli LexA-controlled gene sfiA.

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Laboratoire d'Enzymologie, CNRS, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.


The LexA repressor controls the expression of several SOS genes, such as lexA, recA and sfiA, which are induced by DNA damage. Induction results from the activation of the RecA protein that favours the cleavage and thus the inactivation of LexA. It has been shown that the activation of RecA results from its binding to damaged DNA. It is therefore believed that in growing bacteria, in the absence of any DNA-damaging treatment, the intracellular level of LexA remains stable at a high basal level and, hence, SOS genes are expressed at relatively low basal levels. In contrast, we show here that the intracellular level of LexA and the rate of transcription of the sfiA gene may vary markedly throughout the growth cycle of wild-type Escherichia coli. We provide evidence that such changes result from two superimposed processes: proteolytic cleavage of LexA upon dilution of stationary phase bacteria, and increase in strength of the promoters of the lexA and sfiA genes when bacteria approach the stationary phase. We show that a signal which strongly increases the strength of the sfiA gene promoter is starvation for phosphate. Such induction was not significantly affected by mutations either in phoB (encoding the transcriptional regulator for the phosphate regulon) or rpoS (encoding a putative stationary phase-specific sigma factor). However, sfiA induction by phosphate starvation appeared to be markedly inhibited by the presence of the osmZ205 mutation which alters the histone-like protein H-NS, suggesting that changes in the DNA structure may play a role in signal transduction during phosphate starvation. As previously shown for several processes which are controlled by H-NS, induction of sfiA was modulated by growth temperature.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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