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J Bacteriol. 1996 Aug;178(15):4445-52.

A new gene locus of Bordetella pertussis defines a novel family of prokaryotic transcriptional accessory proteins.

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  • 1Theodor-Boveri-Institut für Biowissenchaften, Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie, Universität Würzburg, Germany.


Recently, a novel type of regulatory mutation causing differential effects on the expression of virulence genes due to a slight overexpression of the RNA polymerase alpha subunit (RpoA) was found in Bordetella pertussis (N. H. Carbonetti, T. M. Fuchs, A. A. Patamawenu, T. J. Irish, H. Deppisch, and R. Gross, J. Bacteriol. 176:7267-7273, 1994). To gather information on the molecular events behind this phenomenon, we isolated suppressor mutants of the RpoA-overexpressing strains after random mutagenesis. Genetic characterization of these suppressor strains revealed the existence of at least three distinct groups of dominant alleles. Mutations occurred either in the rpoA locus itself, in the bvg locus, or in unknown gene loci. One mutant of the latter group was further characterized. By the introduction of a cosmid library containing genomic B. pertussis DNA into this suppressor strain, we isolated a cosmid which suppressed the phenotype of the suppressor strain, thus restoring the negative effect on transcription of the ptx and cya toxin genes. Mutagenesis of the cosmid with Tn5 led to the identification of the gene locus responsible for this phenomenon. Its DNA sequence revealed the presence of an open reading frame (ORF) consisting of 2,373 bp coding for a hypothetical 86-kDa protein with extensive sequence similarities to ORFs with not yet identified functions of Escherichia coli, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis. The new gene, termed tex, for toxin expression, seems to be an essential factor for B. pertussis, as it cannot be deleted from the bacterial chromosome. All members of this new protein family show significant sequence similarities with the mannitol repressor protein MtlR and with the presumptive RNA-binding domains of the Pnp and ribosomal S1 proteins of E. coli in their N- and C-terminal parts, respectively. These sequence similarities and the fact that the tex gene was isolated by virtue of its effects on gene expression in B. pertussis indicate that the members of this new protein family may play an important role in the transcription machinery of prokaryotic organisms.

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