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J Bacteriol. 1996 Aug;178(15):4515-21.

O2 as the regulatory signal for FNR-dependent gene regulation in Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Institut für Mikrobiologie und Weinforschung, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany.


With an oxystat, changes in the pattern of expression of FNR-dependent genes from Escherichia coli were studied as a function of the O2 tension (pO2) in the medium. Expression of all four tested genes was decreased by increasing O2. However, the pO2 values that gave rise to half-maximal repression (pO(0.5)) were dependent on the particular promoter and varied between 1 and 5 millibars (1 bar = 10(5) Pa). The pO(0.5) value for the ArcA-regulated succinate dehydrogenase genes was in the same range (pO(0.5) = 4.6 millibars). At these pO2 values, the cytoplasm can be calculated to be well supplied with O2 by diffusion. Therefore, intracellular O2 could provide the signal to FNR, suggesting that there is no need for a signal transfer chain. Genetic inactivation of the enzymes and coenzymes of aerobic respiration had no or limited effects on the pO(0.5) of FNR-regulated genes. Thus, neither the components of aerobic respiration nor their redox state are the primary sites for O2 sensing, supporting the significance of intracellular O2. Non-redox-active, structural O2 analogs like CO, CN-, and N3-, could not mimic the effect of O2 on FNR-regulated genes under anaerobic conditions and did not decrease the inhibitory effect of O2 under aerobic conditions.

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