Heterogeneous regulation of bacterial natural product biosynthesis via a novel transcription factor

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Abstract

Biological diversity arises among genetically equal subpopulations in the same environment, a phenomenon called phenotypic heterogeneity. The life cycle of the enteric bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens involves a symbiotic interaction with nematodes as well as a pathogenic association with insect larvae. P. luminescens exists in two distinct phenotypic forms designated as primary (1°) and secondary (2°). In contrast to 1° cells, 2° cells are non-pigmented due to the absence of natural compounds, especially anthraquinones (AQs). We identified a novel type of transcriptional regulator, AntJ, which activates expression of the antA-I operon responsible for AQ production. AntJ heterogeneously activates the AQ production in single P. luminescens 1° cells, and blocks AQ production in 2° cells. AntJ contains a proposed ligand-binding WYL-domain, which is widespread among bacteria. AntJ is one of the rare examples of regulators that mediate heterogeneous gene expression by altering activity rather than copy number in single cells.

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Heinrich, A. K., Glaeser, A., Tobias, N. J., Heermann, R., & Bode, H. B. (2016). Heterogeneous regulation of bacterial natural product biosynthesis via a novel transcription factor. Heliyon, 2(11). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2016.e00197

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