DbdR, a New Member of the LysR Family of Transcriptional Regulators, Coordinately Controls Four Promoters in the Thauera aromatica AR-1 3,5-Dihydroxybenzoate Anaerobic Degradation Pathway

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2019 Jan 9;85(2):e02295-18. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02295-18. Print 2019 Jan 15.


The facultative anaerobe Thauera aromatica strain AR-1 uses 3,5-dihydroxybenzoate (3,5-DHB) as a sole carbon and energy source under anoxic conditions using an unusual oxidative strategy to overcome aromatic ring stability. A 25-kb gene cluster organized in four main operons encodes the anaerobic degradation pathway for this aromatic. The dbdR gene coding for a LysR-type transcriptional regulator (LTTR), which is present at the foremost end of the cluster, is required for anaerobic growth on 3,5-DHB and for the expression of the main pathway operons. A model structure of DbdR showed conserved key residues for effector binding with its closest relative TsaR for p-toluenesulfonate degradation. We found that DbdR controlled expression of three promoters upstream from the operons coding for the three main steps of the pathway. While one of them (P orf20 ) was only active in the presence of 3,5-DHB, the other two (P dbhL and P orf18 ) showed moderate basal levels that were further induced in the presence of the pathway substrate, which needed be converted to hydroxyhydroquinone to activate transcription. Both basal and induced activities were strictly dependent on DbdR, which was also required for transcription from its own promoter. DbdR basal expression was moderately high and, unlike most LTTR, increased 2-fold in response to the presence of the effector. DbdR was found to be a tetramer in solution, producing a single retardation complex in binding assays with the three enzymatic promoters, consistent with its tetrameric structure. The three promoters had a conserved organization with a clear putative primary (regulatory) binding site and a putative secondary (activating) binding site positioned at the expected distances from the transcription start site. In contrast, two protein-DNA complexes were observed for the P dbdR promoter, which also showed significant sequence divergence from those of the three other promoters. Taken together, our results show that a single LTTR coordinately controls expression of the entire 3,5-DHB anaerobic degradation pathway in Thauera aromatica AR-1, allowing a fast and optimized response to the presence of the aromatic.IMPORTANCEThauera aromatica AR-1 is a facultative anaerobe that is able to use 3,5-dihydroxybenzoat (3,5-DHB) as the sole carbon and energy source in a process that is dependent on nitrate respiration. We have shown that a single LysR-type regulator with unusual properties, DbdR, controls the expression of the pathway in response to the presence of the substrate; unlike other regulators of the family, DbdR does not repress but activates its own synthesis and is able to bind and activate three promoters directing the synthesis of the pathway enzymes. The promoter architecture is conserved among the three promoters but deviates from that of typical LTTR-dependent promoters. The substrate must be metabolized to an intermediate compound to activate transcription, which requires basal enzyme levels to always be present. The regulatory network present in this strain is designed to allow basal expression of the enzymatic machinery, which would rapidly metabolize the substrate when exposed to it, thus rendering the effector molecule. Once activated, the regulator induces the synthesis of the entire pathway through a positive feedback, increasing expression from all the target promoters to allow maximum growth.

Keywords: LTTR; anaerobic biodegradation; denitrifiers; dihydroxylated aromatic; transcriptional regulation; α-resorcylate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Hydroxybenzoates / metabolism*
  • Resorcinols / metabolism*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Thauera / genetics*
  • Thauera / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Hydroxybenzoates
  • Resorcinols
  • Transcription Factors
  • alpha-resorcylic acid
  • LysR protein, Bacteria