We studied growth temperature as a factor controlling the expression of genes involved in capsular polymers of Escherichia coli K92. These genes are shown to be regulated by growth temperature. Expression levels of genes belonging to the kps cluster, responsible for polysialic acid (PA) biosynthesis, were significantly increased at 37 °C compared with at 19 °C, being up to 500-fold increased for neuE and neuS genes. Similarly, the genes for the nan operon, responsible for PA catabolism, also reached higher expression levels at 37 °C, although with slightly lower values (39-141-fold). In contrast, genes of the cps operon, which are implicated in colanic acid (CA) metabolism, were upregulated when the bacteria were grown at 19 °C, albeit to a much lesser extent (around twofold). This different regulation of genes involved in the biosynthesis of polysialic and CAs correlates with the reported maximal production temperatures for the two polymers. The results suggest that the metabolism of PA is predominantly regulated by changes in gene expression, while CA production may be regulated mainly by post-transcriptional processes such as phosphorylation-dephosphorylation reactions.
© 2011 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.