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J Mol Biol. 1998 Jul 24;280(4):571-82.

pyrH-encoded UMP-kinase directly participates in pyrimidine-specific modulation of promoter activity in Escherichia coli.

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Laboratoire de Microbiologie, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1-av. E. Gryson, Brussels, B-1070, Belgium.


The carAB operon of the enterics Escherichia coli K-12 and Salmonella typhimurium LT2, encoding the sole carbamoylphosphate synthetase (CPSase) of these organisms, is transcribed from two promoters in tandem, carP1 upstream and carP2 downstream, repressed respectively by pyrimidines and arginine. We present evidence that the pyrH gene product (the hexameric UMP-kinase) directly participates in the pyrimidine-specific control of carP1 activity. Indeed, we have isolated in E. coli a particular type of pyrH mutation (pyrH41) that retains a quasi-normal UMP-kinase activity, but yet is impaired in the pyrimidine-specific repression of the P1 promoter of the carAB operon of E. coli and of S. typhimurium. Moreover, the pyrimidine-dependent inhibition of in vivo Dam methylase modification of adenine -106 upstream of the carP1 promoter is altered in this pyrH mutant. The recessive pyrH41 allele bears a single C-G to A-T transversion that converts alanine 94 into glutamic acid (A94E). Although overexpression of pyrH41 results in UMP-kinase levels far above that of a wild-type strain, pyrimidine-specific repression of the carAB operon is not restored under these conditions. Similarly, overexpression of the UMP-CMP-kinase gene of Dictyostelium discoideum in the pyrH41 mutant does not restore pyrimidine-mediated control of carP1 promoter activity, in spite of the elevated UMP-kinase activity measured in such transformants. These results indicate that besides its catalytic function in the de novo pyrimidine biosynthesis, E. coli UMP-kinase fulfils an additional, but previously unrecognized role in the regulation of the carAB operon. UMP-kinase might function as the real sensor of the internal pyrimidine nucleotide pool and act in concert with the integration host factor (IHF) and aminopeptidase A (PepA alias CarP and XerB) in the elaboration of the complex nucleoprotein structure required for pyrimidine-specific repression of carP1 promoter activity.

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