Expression of the tolQRA genes of Escherichia coli K-12 is controlled by the RcsC sensor protein involved in capsule synthesis

Mol Microbiol. 1996 Jan;19(1):19-25. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1996.343880.x.


The tolQRABpal cluster of Escherichia coli K-12 encodes proteins involved in the maintenance of cell-envelope integrity. In addition, tol/pal mutations result in a mucoid colony phenotype at low temperature. The synthesis of capsular polysaccharides by the cps genes is controlled by the positive regulator RcsA and the two-component RcsC/RcsB system. It was shown that the mucoid phenotype of the tol/pal mutants was due to an rcsCB-dependent activation of the cps genes. Furthermore, we have identified a mutation in the rcsC gene that decreased the activity of a tolA-lac operon fusion independently of RcsA and partially independently of RcsB activators. The corresponding rcsC338 mutation resulted in a Glu to Lys substitution at residue 338 of RcsC. This mutation induced mucoidy even at high temperature. We propose that RcsC modulates the phosphorylated forms of RcsB and an uncharacterized regulatory protein involved in the control of the tolQRA genes in an opposite manner. Moreover, our findings strengthen the previous suggestion that RcsC senses some alterations in the cell surface such as those induced by tol, pal or rfa mutations, and activates capsule synthesis to protect the cell against deleterious agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Bacterial Capsules / biosynthesis*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Division
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Lac Operon / genetics
  • Multienzyme Complexes*
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases*
  • Point Mutation / genetics
  • Protein Kinases*
  • Temperature
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • beta-Galactosidase / genetics
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • RcsB protein, E coli
  • Transcription Factors
  • rcsC protein, E coli
  • RcsB protein, Bacteria
  • RcsA protein, E coli
  • Protein Kinases
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases
  • beta-Galactosidase