Deletion of the genes encoding the MtrA-MtrB two-component system of Corynebacterium glutamicum has a strong influence on cell morphology, antibiotics susceptibility and expression of genes involved in osmoprotection

Mol Microbiol. 2004 Oct;54(2):420-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04249.x.


The MtrAB two-component signal transduction system is highly conserved in sequence and genomic organization in Mycobacterium and Corynebacterium species, but its function is completely unknown. Here, the role of MtrAB was studied with C. glutamicum as model organism. In contrast to M. tuberculosis, it was possible to delete the mtrAB genes in C. glutamicum. The mutant cells showed a radically different cell morphology and were more sensitive to penicillin, vancomycin and lysozyme but more resistant to ethambutol. In order to identify the molecular basis for this pleiotropic phenotype, the mRNA profiles of mutant and wild type were compared with DNA microarrays. Three genes showed a more than threefold increased RNA level in the mutant, i.e. mepA (NCgl2411) encoding a putative secreted metalloprotease, ppmA (NCgl2737 ) encoding a putative membrane-bound protease modulator, and lpqB encoding a putative lipoprotein of unknown function. Expression of plasmid-encoded mepA in Escherichia coli led to elongated cells that were hypersensitive to an osmotic downshift, supporting the idea that peptidoglycan is the target of MepA. The mRNA level of two genes was more than fivefold decreased in the mutant, i.e. betP and proP which encode transporters for the uptake of betaine and proline respectively. The microarray results were confirmed by primer extension and RNA dot blot experiments. In the latter, the transcript level of genes involved in osmoprotection was tested before and after an osmotic upshift. The mRNA level of betP, proP and lcoP was strongly reduced or undetectable in the mutant, whereas that of mscL (mechanosensitive channel) was increased. The changes in cell morphology, antibiotics susceptibility and the mRNA levels of betP, proP, lcoP, mscL and mepA could be reversed by expression of plasmid-encoded copies of mtrAB in the DeltamtrAB mutant, confirming that these changes occurred as a consequence of the mtrAB deletion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics*
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Shape
  • Corynebacterium glutamicum* / drug effects
  • Corynebacterium glutamicum* / genetics
  • Corynebacterium glutamicum* / metabolism
  • Corynebacterium glutamicum* / ultrastructure
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • RNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance / genetics*


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • MtrA protein, Bacteria
  • MtrB protein, Bacteria
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors