Cyclic AMP (cAMP) is found in a variety of prokaryotes including both eubacteria and archaebacteria. cAMP plays a role in regulating gene expression, not only for the classic inducible catabolic operons, but also for other categories. In the enteric coliforms, the effects of cAMP on gene expression are mediated through its interaction with and allosteric modification of a cAMP-binding protein (CRP). The CRP-cAMP complex subsequently binds specific DNA sequences and either activates or inhibits transcription depending upon the positioning of the complex relative to the promoter. Enteric coliforms have provided a model to explore the mechanisms involved in controlling adenylate cyclase activity, in regulating adenylate cyclase synthesis, and in performing detailed examinations of CRP-cAMP complex-regulated gene expression. This review summarizes recent work focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms of CRP-cAMP complex-mediated processes. For other bacteria, less detail is known. cAMP has been implicated in regulating antibiotic production, phototrophic growth, and pathogenesis. A role for cAMP has been suggested in nitrogen fixation. Often the only data that support cAMP involvement in these processes includes cAMP measurement, detection of the enzymes involved in cAMP metabolism, or observed effects of high concentrations of the nucleotide on cell growth.
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