In response to osmotic stress, the halophilic, Gram-positive bacterium Marinococcus halophilus accumulates compatible solutes either by de novo synthesis or by uptake from the medium. To characterize transport systems responsible for the uptake of compatible solutes, a plasmid-encoded gene bank of M. halophilus was transferred into the transport-deficient strain Escherichia coli MKH13, and two genes were cloned by functional complementation required for ectoine and glycine betaine transport. The ectoine transporter is encoded by an open reading frame of 1,578 bp named ectM. The gene ectM encodes a putative hydrophobic, 525-residue protein, which shares significant identity to betaine-carnetine-choline transporters (BCCTs). The transporter responsible for the uptake of glycine betaine in M. halophilus is encoded by an open reading frame of 1,482 bp called betM. The potential, hydrophobic BetM protein consists of 493 amino acid residues and belongs, like EctM, to the BCCT family. The affinity of whole cells of E. coli MKH13 for ectoine (Ks =1.6 microM) and betaine (Ks = 21.8 microM) was determined, suggesting that EctM and BetM exhibit a high affinity for their substrates. An elevation of the salinity in the medium resulted in an increased uptake of ectoine via EctM and glycine betaine via BetM in E. coli MKH13 cells, demonstrating that both systems are osmoregulated.
Copyright 2004 Springer-Verlag