The Fur repressor controls transcription of iron-activated and -repressed genes in Helicobacter pylori

Mol Microbiol. 2001 Dec;42(5):1297-309. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2001.02696.x.


The ferric uptake regulator (Fur) protein is known to act as a Fe2+-dependent transcriptional repressor of bacterial promoters. Here, we show that, in Helicobacter pylori, Fur can mediate the regulation of iron-activated genes in contrast to classical Fur regulation, in which iron acts as a co-repressor. Inactivation of the fur gene in the chromosome of H. pylori resulted in the derepression of a 19 kDa protein that was identified by N-terminal sequencing as the non-haem-containing ferritin (Pfr). Growth of the wild-type H. pylori strain on media treated with increasing concentrations of FeSO4 resulted in induction of transcription from the Ppfr promoter and, conversely, depletion of iron resulted in repression of Ppfr, indicating that this promoter is iron activated. In the fur mutant, the Ppfr promoter is constitutively highly expressed and no longer responds to iron, indicating that the Fur protein mediates this type of iron regulation. Footprinting analysis revealed that Fur binds to the Ppfr promoter region and that Fe2+ decreases the efficiency of binding. In contrast, Fe2+ increased the affinity of Fur for a classical Fur-regulated promoter, the iron-repressed frpB gene promoter. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence of direct interaction between the Fur protein and the promoter of an iron-activated (-derepressed) gene. Our results support a model in which the iron status of the Fur protein differentially alters its affinity for operators in either iron-repressed or iron-activated genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Footprinting
  • Deoxyribonuclease I
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial / drug effects*
  • Helicobacter pylori / genetics*
  • Helicobacter pylori / isolation & purification
  • Helicobacter pylori / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Introns
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • ferric uptake regulating proteins, bacterial
  • Iron
  • Deoxyribonuclease I