Transcriptional coupling between the divergent promoters of a prototypic LysR-type regulatory system, the ilvYC operon of Escherichia coli
The twin-domain model [Liu, L. F. & Wang, J. C. (1987) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 84, 7024-7027] suggests that closely spaced, divergent, superhelically sensitive promoters can affect the transcriptional activity of one another by transcriptionally induced negative DNA supercoiling generated in the divergent promoter region. This gene arrangement is observed for many LysR-type-regulated operons in bacteria. We have examined the effects of divergent transcription in the prototypic LysR-type system, the ilvYC operon of Escherichia coli. Double-reporter constructs with the lacZ gene under transcriptional control of the ilvC promoter and the galK gene under control of the divergent ilvY promoter were used to demonstrate that a down-promoter mutation in the ilvY promoter severely decreases in vivo transcription from the ilvC promoter. However, a down-promoter mutation in the ilvC promoter only slightly affects transcription from the ilvY promoter. In vitro transcription assays with DNA topoisomers showed that transcription from the ilvC promoter increases over the entire range of physiological superhelical densities, whereas transcription initiation from the ilvY promoter exhibits a broad optimum at a midphysiological superhelical density. Evidence that this promoter coupling is DNA supercoiling-dependent is provided by the observation that a novobiocin-induced decrease in global negative superhelicity results in an increase in ilvY promoter activity and a decrease in ilvC promoter activity predicted by the in vitro data. We suggest that this transcriptional coupling is important for coordinating basal level expression of the ilvYC operon with the nutritional and environmental conditions of cell growth.