An extracytoplasmic function sigma factor operon regulates Myxococcus xanthus developmental gene expression

Jose De Jesus Rivera, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Myxococcus xanthus is a Gram-negative soil bacterium that undergoes multicellular development when high-density cells are starved on a solid surface. Expression of the 4445 gene, predicted to encode a periplasmic protein, commences 1.5 h after the initiation of development and requires starvation and high density conditions. Addition of crude or boiled supernatant from starving high-density cells restored 4445 expression to starving low-density cells. Addition of L-threonine or L-isoleucine to starving low-density cells also restored 4445 expression, indicating that the high-density signaling activity present in the supernatant might be composed of extracellular amino acids or small peptides. To investigate the circuitry integrating these starvation and high-density signals, the cis- and trans-acting elements controlling 4445 expression were identified. The 4445 transcription start site was determined by primer extension analysis to be 58 by upstream of the predicted translation start site. The promoter region contained a consensus sequence characteristic of extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factor-dependent promoters, suggesting that 4445 expression might be regulated by an ECF sigma factor-dependent pathway, which are known to respond to envelope stresses. The small size of the minimum regulatory region, identified by 5′-end deletion analysis as being only 66 by upstream of the transcription start site, suggests that RNA polymerase could be the sole direct regulator of 4445 expression. To identify trans-acting negative regulators of 4445 expression, a strain containing a 4445-lacZ was mutagenized using the Himar1-tet transposon. The four transposon insertions characterized mapped to an operon encoding a putative ECF sigma factor, ecfA; an anti-sigma factor, reaA; and a negative regulator, reaB. The reaA and the reaB mutants expressed 4445 during growth and development at levels almost 100-fold higher than wild type, indicating that these genes encode negative regulators. The ecfA mutant expressed 4445-lacZ at basal levels, indicating that ecfA is a positive regulator. High Mg2+ concentrations over-stimulated this ecfA pathway possibly due to the depletion of exopolysaccharides and assembled type IV pili. These data indicate that the ecfA operon encodes a new regulatory stress pathway that integrates and transduces starvation and cell density cues during early development and is also responsive to cell-surface alterations.

Subject Area

Microbiology|Genetics|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Rivera, Jose De Jesus, "An extracytoplasmic function sigma factor operon regulates Myxococcus xanthus developmental gene expression" (2004). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3131490.