Identification of transcription activators that regulate gonococcal adaptation from aerobic to anaerobic or oxygen-limited growth

Mol Microbiol. 2000 Aug;37(4):839-55. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2000.02050.x.


Analysis of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae DNA sequence database revealed the presence of two genes, one encoding a protein predicted to be 37. 5% identical (50% similar) in amino acid sequence to the Escherichia coli FNR protein and the other encoding a protein 41% and 42% identical (54 and 51% sequence similarity) to the E. coli NarL and NarP proteins respectively. Both genes have been cloned into E. coli and insertionally inactivated in vitro. The mutated genes have been transformed into gonococci and recombined into the chromosome. The fnr mutation totally abolished and the narP mutation severely diminished the ability of gonococci to: (i) grow anaerobically; (ii) adapt to oxygen-limited growth; (iii) initiate transcription from the aniA promoter (which directs the expression of a copper-containing nitrite reductase, AniA, in response to the presence of nitrite); and (iv) reduce nitrite during growth in oxygen-limited media. The product of nitrite reduction was identified to be nitrous oxide. Immediately upstream of the narL/narP gene is an open reading frame that, if translated, would encode a homologue of the E. coli nitrate- and nitrite-sensing proteins NarX and NarQ. As transcription from the aniA promoter was not activated during oxygen-limited growth in the presence of nitrate, the gonococcal two-component regulatory system is designated NarQ-NarP rather than NarX-NarL. As far as we are aware, this is the first well-documented example of a two-component regulatory system working in partnership with a transcription activator in pathogenic neisseria. A 45 kDa c-type cytochrome that was synthesized during oxygen-limited, but not during oxygen sufficient, growth was identified as a homologue of cytochrome c peroxidases (CCP) of other bacteria. The gene for this cytochrome, designated ccp, was located, and its regulatory region was cloned into the promoter probe vector pLES94. Transcription from the ccp promoter was repressed during aerobic growth and induced during oxygen-limited growth and was totally FNR dependent, suggesting that the gonococcal FNR protein is a transcription activator of at least two genes. However, unlike AniA, synthesis of the CCP homologue was insensitive to the presence of nitrite during oxygen-limited growth.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • Cytochrome c Group / metabolism
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / genetics
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / growth & development
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / metabolism
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / physiology*
  • Nitrites / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*


  • Cytochrome c Group
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Nitrites
  • Trans-Activators