catM encodes a LysR-type transcriptional activator regulating catechol degradation in Acinetobacter calcoaceticus

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On the basis of the constitutive phenotypes of two catM mutants of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus, the CatM protein was proposed to repress expression of two different loci involved in catechol degradation, catA and catBCIJFD (E. Neidle, C. Hartnett, and L. N. Ornston, J. Bacterial, 171:5410- 5421, 1989). In spite of its proposed negative role as a repressor, CatM is similar in amino acid sequence to positive transcriptional activators of the LysR family. Investigating this anomaly, we found that insertional inactivation of catM did not cause the phenotype expected for the disruption of a repressor-encoding gene: in an interposon-generated catM mutant, no cat genes were expressed constitutively, but rather catA and catB were still inducible by muconate. Moreover, this catM mutant grew poorly on benzoate, a process requiring the expression of all cat genes. The inducibility of the cat genes in this catM mutant was completely eliminated by a 3.5-kbp deletion 10 kbp upstream of catM. In this double mutant, catM in trans restored muconate inducibility to both catA and catB. These results suggested the presence of an additional regulatory locus controlling cat gene expression. The ability of CatM to function as an activator was also suggested by these results. In support of this hypothesis, in vivo methylation protection assays showed that CatM protects two guanines in a dyad 65 nucleotides upstream of the catB transcriptional start site, in a location and pattern typical of LysR-type transcriptional activators. Gel mobility shift assays indicated that CatM also binds to a region upstream of catA. DNA sequence analysis revealed a nucleotide near the 3' end of catM not present in the published sequence. Translation of the corrected sequence resulted in the deduced CatM protein being 52 residues longer than previously reported. The size, amino acid sequence, and mode of action of CatM now appear similar to, and typical of, what has been found for transcriptional activators in the LysR family. Analysis of one of the constitutive alleles of catM previously thought to encode a dysfunctional repressor indicated instead that it encodes an inducer-independent transcriptional activator.




Romero-Arroyo, C. E., Schell, M. A., Gaines, G. L., & Neidle, E. L. (1995). catM encodes a LysR-type transcriptional activator regulating catechol degradation in Acinetobacter calcoaceticus. Journal of Bacteriology, 177(20), 5891–5898.

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