The Rhodobacter capsulatus NtrC protein is a bacterial enhancer-binding protein that activates the transcription of at least five genes by a mechanism that does not require the RpoN RNA polymerase sigma factor. The nifR3-ntrB-ntrC operon in R. capsulatus codes for the nitrogen-sensing two component regulators NtrB and NtrC, as well as for NifR3, a protein of unknown function that is highly conserved in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Evidence of a unique translational control of NifR3 mediated directly by the NtrC enhancer-binding protein is reported. The nifR3-ntrB-ntrC operon is expressed from a single promoter upstream of nifR3 with the levels of transcript equivalent in wild-type and ntrC mutants under nitrogen-limited or nitrogen-sufficient conditions. LacZ reporter analyses of this operon and immunological quantitation of NifR3 and NtrC demonstrate that, unlike NtrC levels which remain constant, production of NifR3 is at least ten to 40-fold reduced in NtrC- strains. NifR3 is increased at least fivefold upon nitrogen limitation whereas NtrC production is constitutive. Surprisingly, the purified NtrC protein binds cooperatively to the nifR3 promoter region in vitro at two sets of tandem binding sites centered at +1 and -81 nucleotides relative to the transcriptional start site. Deletion analysis demonstrates that the upstream tandem sites are essential for nitrogen and NtrC-dependent production of NifR3 in vivo, but are not necessary for nifR3 transcription. These experiments indicate that NtrC stimulates the translation of the NifR3 messenger RNA while tethered to the promoter DNA. This is in contrast to five other promoters (nifA1, nifA2, glnB, mopA and anfA) in R. capsulatus which are transcriptionally activated by NtrC bound to one set of tandem binding sites that are centered greater than 100 bp upstream of the transcriptional start site.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Elizabeth Monika for the construction of plasmids pBMM1 and pBMM2. We thank John Majors, Eric Richards, Mark Johnston, Craig Pikaard, and Eduardo Groisman for advice and comments. P.J.C. was supported, in part, by a Monsanto graduate student fellowship. This work was supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (no. 9537305 and 9703754 to R.G.K.).
Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.