OxyR tightly regulates catalase expression inNeisseria meningitidisthrough both repression and activation mechanisms

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Abstract

Mechanisms for coping with oxidative stress (OS) are crucial for the survival of pathogenic Neisseria spp. in the human host. In this study we investigate the mechanism by which OxyR finely regulates the catalase gene (kat) in Neisseria meningitidis. Detailed transcriptional analyses show that catalase is transcribed from a single promoter that is induced by H2O2 in an OxyR-dependent manner and two key cysteine residues are essential for this. OxyR also represses the kat promoter: kat expression in the null mutant is at a constitutive intermediary level higher than uninduced, but lower than H2O2-induced levels in the wild type. Our data are consistent with a model in which OxyR binds to the kat promoter and exerts: (i) repression of transcription in the absence of OS signal and (ii) activation of the promoter in response to OS signal. This direct double-edged mechanism may ensure tight regulatory control of kat expression ensuring catalase is synthesized only when needed. In addition, our results provide an explanation for the altered OS resistance phenotypes seen in Neisseria mutant strains where, paradoxically, the oxyR mutants are more resistant than the wild type in oxidative killing assays.

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