Transcriptional linkage of the enterobactin gene cluster entCEBA(P15) was confirmed by ent-lacZ gene fusion analysis. Control sequences directing iron-regulated expression of this polycistronic message were localized to the fepB-entC bidirectional promoter region. Transcriptional initiation sites defined by primer extension analysis were located 103 base-pairs apart for the divergent fepB and entC messages. Within this divergent regulatory region, strongly consensus -35 and -10 promoter determinants and potential Fur repressor-binding sequences were identified. A vector containing divergently oriented indicator gene fusions was constructed to monitor regulatory effects of mutations within this iron-responsive control region. The fepB-entC promoter-operator elements were confirmed by mutation, using the dual gene fusion system in multicopy and low copy number states. Mutations in the -35 and -10 regions of the fepB and entC promoters that decreased their similarity to consensus resulted in reduced promoter activity. Mutations in the Furcontrolled operators reduced induction ratios (iron-deficient levels/iron-rich levels) for the respective fusion gene activities by approximately sevenfold. Although operator mutants retained some degree of inducibility, complete relief of repression was observed for double operator mutants, suggesting that only minor regulatory influence is exerted by Fur occupation of the opposing operator site. DNase I footprinting experiments were performed to characterize the sequence-specific Fur interactions at the operator sequences. At the fepB operator, a 31 base-pair Fur-protected region was identified, corresponding to positions -19 to + 12 with respect to the transcriptional start site. Similarly, Fur protected a 31 base-pair region in entC, corresponding to positions +1 to +31 in the message. A contiguous and sequentially occupied secondary Fur-binding site in entC was protected at higher Fur concentrations, extending the protected region to +49, and sequestering the putative Shine-Dalgarno sequence. Operator positional effects and co-operativity are discussed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by grants DMB 8416017 and DMB 8821464 from the National Science Foundation (to M.A.M.) a,nd by Public Health Service predoctoral traineeship 1 T32 AI07276 (to T.J.B.) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.