Diversity in lac Operon Regulation among Diverse Escherichia coli Isolates Depends on the Broader Genetic Background but Is Not Explained by Genetic Relatedness
Phillips, Kelly N.
Ray, J. Christian J.
Cooper, Tim F.
American Society for Microbiology
Scholarly/refereed, publisher version
Copyright © 2019 Phillips et al.
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Transcription of bacterial genes is controlled by the coordinated action of cis- and trans-acting regulators. The activity and mode of action of these regulators can reflect different requirements for gene products in different environments. A well-studied example is the regulatory function that integrates the environmental availability of glucose and lactose to control the Escherichia coli lac operon. Most studies of lac operon regulation have focused on a few closely related strains. To determine the range of natural variation in lac regulatory function, we introduced a reporter construct into 23 diverse E. coli strains and measured expression with combinations of inducer concentrations. We found a wide range of regulatory functions. Several functions were similar to the one observed in a reference lab strain, whereas others depended weakly on the presence of cAMP. Some characteristics of the regulatory function were explained by the genetic relatedness of strains, indicating that differences varied on relatively short time scales. The regulatory characteristics explained by genetic relatedness were among those that best predicted the initial growth of strains following transition to a lactose environment, suggesting a role for selection. Finally, we transferred the lac operon, with the lacI regulatory gene, from five natural isolate strains into a reference lab strain. The regulatory function of these hybrid strains revealed the effect of local and global regulatory elements in controlling expression. Together, this work demonstrates that regulatory functions can be varied within a species and that there is variation within a species to best match a function to particular environments.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Phillips KN, Widmann S, Lai H-Y, Nguyen J, Ray JCJ, Balázsi G, Cooper TF. 2019. Diversity in lac operon regulation among diverse Escherichia coli isolates depends on the broader genetic background but is not explained by genetic relatedness. mBio 10:e02232-19. https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.02232-19.
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