Network regulation of the Escherichia coli maltose system

J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol. 2002 May;4(3):301-7.


The genes of the Escherichia coli maltose regulon are controlled by MalT, the specific transcriptional activator which, together with the inducer maltotriose and ATP, is essential for mal gene transcription. Network regulation in this system affects the function of MalT and occurs on two levels. The first concerns the expression of malT. It has long been known that malT is under catabolite repression and thus under the control of the cAMP/CAP complex. We found that, in addition, the global regulator Mlc is a repressor for malT transcription. The repressor activity of Mlc is controlled by the transport status of the glucose-specific enzyme EIICB of the PTS that causes sequestration (and inactivation as a repressor) of Mlc when glucose is transported. The second level of MalT regulation affects its activity. MalT is activated by maltotriose which is not only formed when the cells are growing on any maltodextrin but also, in low amounts, endogenously when the cells grow on non-maltodextrin carbon sources. Thus, cellular metabolism, for instance degradation of galactose or trehalose, can cause mal gene induction. It was found that unphosphorylated internal glucose takes part in endogenous maltodextrin biosynthesis and is therefore a key element in endogenous mal gene expression. In addition to the maltotriose-dependent activation, MalT can interact with three different enzymes that lead to its inactivation as a transcriptional activator. The first is MaIK, the energy transducing ABC subunit of the maltodextrin transport system. Transport controls the interaction of MalK and MalT thus affecting gene expression. The second enzyme is MalY, a pyridoxal phosphate containing enzyme exhibiting cystathionase activity. The crystal structure of MalY was established and mutations in MalY that reduce mal gene repression map in a hydrophobic MalT interaction patch on the surface of the enzyme. The last enzyme is a soluble esterase of as yet unknown function. When overproduced, this enzyme specifically reduces mal gene expression and affects the activity of MalT in an in vitro transcription assay.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Maltose / metabolism*
  • Operon
  • Transcriptional Activation


  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Maltose