RNA sequence requirements for NasR-mediated, nitrate-responsive transcription antitermination of the Klebsiella oxytoca M5al nasF operon leader

Section of Microbiology Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-8101, USA
Journal of Molecular Biology (Impact Factor: 3.96). 10/1999; 292(2):203-216. DOI: 10.1006/jmbi.1999.3084

ABSTRACT In Klebsiella oxytoca, enzymes required for nitrate assimilation are encoded by thenasFEDCBA operon. Nitrate and nitrite induction of nasF operon expression is determined by a transcriptional antitermination mechanism, in which the nasR gene product responds to nitrate or nitrite and overcomes transcription termination at the factor-independent terminator site located in the nasF upstream leader region. Previous studies led to the hypothesis that the NasR protein mediates transcription antitermination through interaction with nasF leader RNA. Here, we report a DNA sequence comparison that reveals conserved 1:2 and 3:4 RNA secondary structures in the nasF leader RNAs from two Klebsiella species. Additionally, we found that specific binding of the NasR protein to nasF leader RNA was stimulated by nitrate and nitrite. We combined mutational analysis, in vivo and in vitro antitermination assays, and an RNA electrophoretic mobility shift assay to define regions in the nasF leader that are essential for antitermination and for NasR-RNA interaction. Formation of the 1:2 stem structure and the specific sequence of the 1:2 hexanucleotide loop were required for both nitrate induction and for NasR-RNA interaction. Mutations in the 1:2 stem-loop region that abolished nitrate induction also interfered with NasR-leader RNA interaction. Finally, nucleotide alterations or additions in the linker region between the 1:2 and 3:4 stem-loops were deleterious to nasF operon induction but not to NasR-leader RNA interaction. We hypothesize that NasR protein recognizes the 1:2 stem-loop structure in the nasF leader RNA to mediate transcription antitermination in response to nitrate or nitrite.

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