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Cyclic AMP receptor protein and RhaR synergistically activate transcription from the L-rhamnose-responsive rhaSR promoter in Escherichia coli.

Wickstrum J.R., Santangelo T.J., Egan S.M.

The Escherichia coli rhaSR operon encodes two AraC family transcription activator proteins, RhaS and RhaR, which regulate expression of the l-rhamnose catabolic regulon in response to l-rhamnose availability. RhaR positively regulates rhaSR in response to l-rhamnose, and RhaR activation can be enhanced by the cyclic AMP (cAMP) receptor protein (CRP) protein. CRP is a well-studied global transcription regulator that binds to DNA as a dimer and activates transcription in the presence of cAMP. We investigated the mechanism of CRP activation at rhaSR both alone and in combination with RhaR in vivo and in vitro. Base pair substitutions at potential CRP binding sites in the rhaSR-rhaBAD intergenic region demonstrate that CRP site 3, centered at position -111.5 relative to the rhaSR transcription start site, is required for the majority of the CRP-dependent activation of rhaSR. DNase I footprinting confirms that CRP binds to site 3; CRP binding to the other potential CRP sites at rhaSR was not detected. We show that, at least in vitro, CRP is capable of both RhaR-dependent and RhaR-independent activation of rhaSR from a total of three transcription start sites. In vitro transcription assays indicate that the carboxy-terminal domain of the alpha subunit (alpha-CTD) of RNA polymerase is at least partially dispensable for RhaR-dependent activation but that the alpha-CTD is required for CRP activation of rhaSR. Although CRP requires the presence of RhaR for efficient in vivo activation of rhaSR, DNase I footprinting assays indicated that cooperative binding between RhaR and CRP does not make a significant contribution to the mechanism of CRP activation at rhaSR. It therefore appears that CRP activates transcription from rhaSR as it would at simple class I promoters, albeit from a relatively distant position.

J. Bacteriol. 187:6708-6718(2005) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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