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Gene. 1998 Apr 14;210(2):307-14.

Characterization of an unusual sensor gene (virA) of Agrobacterium.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195-7242, USA.


Previous studies have shown that the virulence(vir) genes of Agrobacterium tumefaciens strain KU12 are induced by a unique set of phenolic compounds that are non-functional in most strains of Agrobacterium. Further, strain KU12 is not induced by phenolic compounds that induce the vir genes in other strains. Previous studies have shown that these differences in inducing activity result from differences in the sensor protein for these signal molecules, the VirA protein. To gain some understanding of the basis for these differences in sensing ability, we sequenced the entire virA locus of pTiKU12, including its promoter region and compared this sequence with five different published virA sequences that respond in different ways to inducing compounds. The virA gene of KU12 is composed of an open single reading frame coding for 851 aa. At the aa level, the VirA protein of pTiKU12 is 45, 45, 49, 49 and 64% identical to the VirA proteins from pTiA6, pTi15955, pRiA4, pTiC58 and pTiAg162, respectively. The transcription start sites of pTiKU12 and pTiA6 virA genes differ significantly when mapped by primer extension. Unlike all other vir genes, except the virA gene of pTiAg162, pTiKU12 virA is constitutively expressed, and its synthesis is not induced by phenolic compounds. The lack of induction is accounted for by the fact that the promoter region does not have the conserved VirG-binding dodecadeoxynucleotide sequence (vir-box) that was previously identified in all promoter regions of inducible vir genes.

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