Regulation of the metC-cysK Operon, Involved in Sulfur Metabolism in Lactococcus lactis

María Fernández, Michiel Kleerebezem, Oscar P. Kuipers, Roland J. Siezen, Richard van Kranenburg

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Sulfur metabolism in gram-positive bacteria is poorly characterized. Information on the molecular mechanisms of regulation of genes involved in sulfur metabolism is limited, and no regulator genes have been identified. Here we describe the regulation of the lactococcal metC-cysK operon, encoding a cystathionine β-lyase (metC) and cysteine synthase (cysK). Its expression was shown to be negatively affected by high concentrations of cysteine, methionine, and glutathione in the culture medium, while sulfur limitation resulted in a high level of expression. Other sulfur sources tested showed no significant effect on metC-cysK gene expression. In addition we found that O-acetyl-L-serine, the substrate of cysteine synthase, was an inducer of the metC-cysK operon. Using a random mutagenesis approach, we identified two genes, cmbR and cmbT, involved in regulation of metC-cysK expression. The cmbT gene is predicted to encode a transport protein, but its precise role in regulation remains unclear. Disruption of cmbT resulted in a two- to threefold reduction of metC-cysK transcription. A 5.7-kb region containing the cmbR gene was cloned and sequenced. The encoded CmbR protein is homologous to the LysR family of regulator proteins and is an activator of the metC-cysK operon. In analogy to CysB from Escherichia coli, we propose that CmbR requires acetylserine to be able to bind the activation sites and subsequently activate transcription of the metC-cysK operon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-90
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2002

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