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.
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