Identification and characterization of a CI binding operator at a distant location in the temperate staphylococcal phage φ11

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Bacteriophage φ11 encodes repressors CI and Cro for executing its growth in Staphylococcus aureus, a human pathogen. There are three homologous operators O1, O2 and O3 between the repressor-expressing genes. While CI binds to O1 and O2, Cro interacts only with O3. To locate additional CI binding operators in φ11, we searched its genome using the O1/O2 sequence as a probe. The results show the presence of a putative CI binding operator (O4) at the 3´ end of the cro. O4 differs from O2 and O1 by one base and five bases, respectively. A specific interaction was noticed between O4 and rCI, a recombinant CI. However, O4 shows no interaction with rCro, a chimeric Cro. Additionally, six guanine bases, situated in and around O4, have interacted with rCI. Interestingly, the rCI binding affinity of O4 or O1 is about 15 times higher than that of O2. A comparative study indicates that some bases and structural alteration, unique to O1 and O4, may contribute to their enhanced rCI binding affinity. Collectively, the study has not only broadened the distinct gene regulatory circuit of φ11 but also suggested that it possibly employs a complex mechanism for its development in S. aureus.

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