Evidence for dual functionality of the operon plnABCD in the regulation of bacteriocin production in Lactobacillus plantarum

Mol Microbiol. 2001 Aug;41(3):633-44. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2001.02533.x.


The regulatory operon (plnABCD) involved in bacteriocin production in Lactobacillus plantarum C11 encodes four different proteins: a cationic prepeptide (PlnA); a histidine protein kinase (PlnB); and two highly homologous response regulators (PlnC and PlnD; over 75% sequence similarity). The mature product of PlnA, plantaricin A, serves as an extracellular pheromone that induces bacteriocin production. The exact roles of plnBCD in bacteriocin production have not been established experimentally. A reporter system containing the gusA gene fused with the plnA promoter was used to study plnABCD. We demonstrated that the plnABCD operon codes for an autoregulatory unit capable of activating its own promoter. Deletion analyses, performed in a heterologous expression host to define the roles of the individual genes, confirmed that both the inducer gene (plnA) and the kinase gene (plnB) are required for autoactivation. Apparently, the latter gene encodes a protein that serves as a receptor for the pheromone peptide. It was also demonstrated conclusively that the two regulators PlnC and PlnD, which have been shown previously to bind specifically to the DNA regulatory repeats of the plnA promoter, possess differential activities on the plnA promoter, with PlnC being much more active than PlnD. The functions of the response regulators were investigated further in the bacteriocin producer strain C11 in order to reveal their roles in bacteriocin production. Surprisingly, the two response regulators display totally opposite functions: although overexpression of plnC activated transcription and bacteriocin production, the overexpression of plnD repressed both processes, thus strongly suggesting that PlnD plays a role in the downregulation of bacteriocin synthesis. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence for a protein involved directly in negative regulation of bacteriocin production, and also it was shown for the first time that two highly homologous response regulators, with opposite functions, are encoded by genes located on the same operon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacteriocins / biosynthesis*
  • Bacteriocins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Reporter / genetics
  • Glucuronidase / genetics
  • Glucuronidase / metabolism
  • Lactobacillus / genetics*
  • Lactobacillus / metabolism*
  • Operon / genetics*
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacteriocins
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Glucuronidase