Proteolytic degradation of Escherichia coli transcription activators SoxS and MarA as the mechanism for reversing the induction of the superoxide (SoxRS) and multiple antibiotic resistance (Mar) regulons

Mol Microbiol. 2004 Mar;51(6):1801-16. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2003.03952.x.


In Escherichia coli, the SoxRS regulon confers resistance to redox-cycling compounds, and the Mar regulon provides a defence against multiple antibiotics. The response regulators, SoxS and MarA, are synthesized de novo in response to their inducing signals and directly activate transcription of a common set of target genes. Although the mechanisms of transcription activation by SoxS and MarA have been well studied, little is known about how the systems are shut-off once the inducing stress has subsided, except that de novo synthesis of the regulators is known to cease almost immediately. Here, we induced the SoxRS regulon and determined that, upon removal of the inducer, expression of the regulon's genes quickly returns to the preinduced level. This rapid shut-off indicates that the system is reset by an active process. We found that SoxS is unstable and infer that SoxS degradation is responsible for the rapid return of the system to the ground state upon removal of the inducing signal. We also found that MarA is unstable and that the instability of both proteins is intrinsic and unregulated. We used null mutations of protease genes to identify the proteases involved in the degradation of SoxS and MarA. Among single protease mutations, only lon mutations increased the half-life of SoxS and MarA. In addition, SoxS appeared to be nearly completely stable in a lon ftsH double mutant. Using hexahistidine tags placed at the respective ends of the activators, we found that access to the amino-terminus is essential for the proteolytic degradation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Western
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Half-Life
  • Hydrolysis
  • Kinetics
  • Mutation
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Regulon*
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • MarA protein, E coli
  • Trans-Activators
  • SoxS protein, E coli
  • Endopeptidases