Identification of additional genes belonging to the LexA regulon in Escherichia coli

Mol Microbiol. 2000 Mar;35(6):1560-72. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2000.01826.x.


Exposure of Escherichia coli to a variety of DNA-damaging agents results in the induction of the global 'SOS response'. Expression of many of the genes in the SOS regulon are controlled by the LexA protein. LexA acts as a transcriptional repressor of these unlinked genes by binding to specific sequences (LexA boxes) located within the promoter region of each LexA-regulated gene. Alignment of 20 LexA binding sites found in the E. coli chromosome reveals a consensus of 5'-TACTG(TA)5CAGTA-3'. DNA sequences that exhibit a close match to the consensus are said to have a low heterology index and bind LexA tightly, whereas those that are more diverged have a high heterology index and are not expected to bind LexA. By using this heterology index, together with other search criteria, such as the location of the putative LexA box relative to a gene or to promoter elements, we have performed computational searches of the entire E. coli genome to identify novel LexA-regulated genes. These searches identified a total of 69 potential LexA-regulated genes/operons with a heterology index of <15 and included all previously characterized LexA-regulated genes. Probes were made to the remaining genes, and these were screened by Northern analysis for damage-inducible gene expression in a wild-type lexA+ cell, constitutive expression in a lexA(Def) cell and basal expression in a non-inducible lexA(Ind-) cell. These experiments have allowed us to identify seven new LexA-regulated genes, thus bringing the present number of genes in the E. coli LexA regulon to 31. The potential function of each newly identified LexA-regulated gene is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Computer Simulation
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Regulon*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • LexA protein, Bacteria
  • Serine Endopeptidases