Temporal regulation of gene expression of the thermus thermophilus bacteriophage P23-45
Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
Regulation of gene expression during infection of the thermophilic bacterium Thermus thermophilus HB8 with the bacteriophage P23-45 was investigated. Macroarray analysis revealed host transcription shut-off and identified three temporal classes of phage genes; early, middle and late. Primer extension experiments revealed that the 5' ends of P23-45 early transcripts are preceded by a common sequence motif that likely defines early viral promoters. T. thermophilus HB8 RNA polymerase (RNAP) recognizes middle and late phage promoters in vitro but does not recognize early promoters. In vivo experiments revealed the presence of rifampicin-resistant RNA polymerizing activity in infected cells responsible for early transcription. The product of the P23-45 early gene 64 shows a distant sequence similarity with the largest, catalytic subunits of multisubunit RNAPs and contains the conserved metal-binding motif that is diagnostic of these proteins. We hypothesize that ORF64 encodes rifampicin-resistant phage RNAP that recognizes early phage promoters. Affinity isolation of T. thermophilus HB8 RNAP from P23-45-infected cells identified two phage-encoded proteins, gp39 and gp76, that bind the host RNAP and inhibit in vitro transcription from host promoters, but not from middle or late phage promoters, and may thus control the shift from host to viral gene expression during infection. To our knowledge, gp39 and gp76 are the first characterized bacterial RNAP-binding proteins encoded by a thermophilic phage.