A Zinc(II)/lead(II)/cadmium(II)-inducible operon from the cyanobacterium Anabaena is regulated by AztR, an α3N ArsR/SmtB metalloregulator
A novel Zn(II)/Pb(II)/Cd(II)-responsive operon that consists of genes encoding a Zn(II)/Pb(II) CPx-ATPase efflux pump (aztA) and a Zn(II)/Cd(II)/Pb(II)-specific SmtB/ArsR family repressor (aztR) has been identified and characterized from the cyanobacterium Anabaena PCC 7120. In vivo real time quantitative RT-PCR assays reveal that both aztR and aztA expression are induced by divalent metal ions Zn(II), Cd(II), and Pb(II) but not by other divalent [Co(II), Ni(II)] or monovalent metal ions [Cu(I) and Ag(I)]. The introduction of a plasmid containing the azt operon into a Zn(II)/Cd(II)-hypersensitive Escherichia coli strain GG48 functionally restores Zn(II) and Pb(II) resistance with a limited effect on Cd(II) resistance. Gel mobility shift assays and aztR O/P-lacZ induction experiments confirm that AztR is the metal-regulated repressor of this operon. In vitro biochemical and mutagenesis studies indicate that AztR contains a sole metal-binding site, designated the alpha3N site, that binds Zn(II), Cd(II), and Pb(II) with a high affinity. Optical absorption spectra of Co(II)- and Cd(II)-substituted AztR and (113)Cd NMR spectroscopy of (113)Cd(II)-substituted AztR reveal that the sole alpha3N site in AztR is a CadC-like distorted tetrahedral S(3)(N,O) metal site. The first metal-coordination shell in the AztR alpha3N site differs from other alpha3N family members that sense Cd(II)/Pb(II) and those alpha5 repressors that sense Zn(II)/Co(II). Our results reveal that the alpha3N site in AztR mediates derepression of the azt operon in the presence of Zn(II), as well as Cd(II) and Pb(II); this might have provided Anabaena with an evolutionary advantage to adapt to heavy-metal-rich environments, while maintaining homeostasis of an essential metal ion, Zn(II).
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