Mechanisms underlying expression of Tn10 encoded tetracycline resistance

Annu Rev Microbiol. 1994;48:345-69. doi: 10.1146/annurev.mi.48.100194.002021.


Tetracycline-resistance determinants encoding active efflux of the drug are widely distributed in gram-negative bacteria and unique with respect to genetic organization and regulation of expression. Each determinant consists of two genes called tetA and tetR, which are oriented with divergent polarity, and between them is a central regulatory region with overlapping promoters and operators. The amino acid sequences of the encoded proteins are 43-78% identical. The resistance protein TetA is a tetracycline/metal-proton antiporter located in the cytoplasmic membrane, while the regulatory protein TetR is a tetracycline inducible repressor. TetR binds via a helix-turn-helix motif to the two tet operators, resulting in repression of both genes. A detailed model of the repressor-operator complex has been proposed on the basis of biochemical and genetic data. The tet genes are differentially regulated so that repressor synthesis can occur before the resistance protein is expressed. This has been demonstrated for the Tn10-encoded tet genes and may be a common property of all tet determinants, as suggested by the similar locations of operators with respect to promoters. Induction is mediated by a tetracycline-metal complex and requires only nanomolar concentrations of the drug. This is the most sensitive effector-inducible system of transcriptional regulation known to date. The crystal structure of the TetR-tetracycline/metal complex shows the Tet repressor in the induced, non-DNA binding conformation. The structural interpretation of many noninducible TetR mutants has offered insight into the conformational changes associated with the switch between inducing and repressing structures of TetR. Tc is buried in the core of TetR, where it is held in place by multiple contacts to the protein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antiporters / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / drug effects
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Operator Regions, Genetic
  • Repressor Proteins / chemistry
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Tetracycline Resistance / genetics*


  • Antiporters
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Repressor Proteins
  • tetA protein, Bacteria
  • tetracycline resistance-encoding transposon repressor protein