A new type of NtrC transcriptional activator

D. Foster-Hartnett, P. J. Cullen, E. M. Monika, R. G. Kranz

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35 Scopus citations


The enteric NtrC (NR1) protein has been the paradigm for a class of bacterial enhancer-binding proteins (EBPs) that activate transcription of RNA polymerase containing the σ54 factor. Activators in the NtrC class are characterized by essentially three properties: (i) they bind to sites distant from the promoters that they activate (>100 bp upstream of the transcriptional start site), (ii) they contain a conserved nucleotide- binding fold and exhibit ATPase activity that is required for activation, and (iii) they activate the σ54 RNA polymerase. We have characterized the NtrC protein from a photosynthetic bacterium, Rhodobacter capsulatus, which represents a metabolically versatile group of bacteria found in aquatic environments. We have shown that the R. capsulatus NtrC protein (RcNtrC) binds to two tandem sites that are distant from promoters that it activates, nifA1 and nifA2. These tandem binding sites are shown to be important for RcNtrC-dependent nitrogen regulation in vivo. Moreover, the conserved nucleotide-binding fold of RcNtrC is required to activate nifA1 and nifA2 but is not required for DNA binding of RcNtrC to upstream activation sequences. However, nifA1 and nifA2 genes do not require the σ54 for activation and do not contain the highly conserved nucleotides that are present in all σ54-type, EBP-activated promoters. Thus, the NtrC from this photosynthetic bacterium represents a novel member of the class of bacterial EBPs. It is probable that this class of EBPs is more versatile in prokaryotes than previously envisioned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6175-6187
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number20
StatePublished - 1994


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