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In vivo genomic footprinting analysis reveals that the complex Bradyrhizobium japonicum fixRnifA promoter region is differently occupied by two distinct RNA polymerase holoenzymes

Barrios, H., Grande, R., Olvera, L., Morett, E.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 1998 v.95 no.3 pp. 1014-1019
Bradyrhizobium japonicum, DNA-directed RNA polymerase, DNA footprinting, mutants, mutagenesis, potassium permanganate, dimethyl sulfate, transcription factors, DNA-binding proteins, gene expression, reporter genes, beta-galactosidase, regulatory sequences, DNA methylation, promoter regions, transcription (genetics), binding sites
The Bradyrhizobium japonicum fixRnifA operon is transcribed from two promoters:fixRp1, a -21/-12 promoter recognized by the sigma 54-holoenzyme form of the RNA polymerase, and fixRp2, a -35/-10 promoter that is transcribed by a second, unidentified, form of RNA polymerase holoenzyme. The fixRp1 promoter is autoregulated during microaerobiosis by NifA, whereas fixRp2 is also activated, but by a different regulatory protein. The main transcription start sites for these promoters are just two nucleotides apart, such that the conserved -12 and -10 regions of fixRp1 and fixRp2, respectively, must overlap each other, whereas the -24 and -35 regions lie one DNA helical turn apart. Using in vivo genomic dimethyl sulfate and KMnO4 footprinting, we showed that the promoter region is differentially protected, depending upon which holoenzyme is bound. Mutagenesis analyses indicated that positions from -12 to -14 are critical for the activity of both promoters, whereas mutations at -10 and -11 affected mainly fixRp2 expression. When the sequence of the putative -35 region of fixRp2 was modified to match the putative consensus, expression from this promoter was increased 3-fold and the reactivity toward KMnO4, but not the transcriptional start site, moved two nucleotides further upstream, indicating that the altered promoter forms a different open complex. Additionally, we detected NifA-dependent methylation protection of two atypical NifA binding sites and protection of guanine -75. The latter residue is located in a region critical for fixRp2 promoter activation. The results present direct physical evidence of the complexity of the organization, regulation, and function of the fixRnifA promoter region.