Thermoregulation of kpsF, the first region 1 gene in the kps locus for polysialic acid biosynthesis in Escherichia coli K1

Michael Cieslewicz, Eric Vimr

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The kps locus for biosynthesis of the capsular polysialic acid virulence factor in Escherichia coli K1 contains at least two convergently transcribed operons, designated region 1 and regions 2 plus 3. On the basis of DNA sequence analysis, kpsF appeared to be a good candidate for the first gene of region 1 (M. J. Cieslewicz, S. M. Steenbergen, and E. R. Vimr, J. Bacteriol. 175:8018-8023, 1993). A preliminary indication that kpsF is required for capsule production is the capsule-negative phenotype of an aphT insertion in the chromosomal copy of kpsF. The present communication describes the isolation and phenotypic characterization of this mutant. Although transcription through kpsF was required for capsule production, complementation analysis failed to indicate a clear requirement for the KpsF polypeptide. However, since E. coli contains at least two other open reading frames that could code for homologs of KpsF, the apparent dispensability of KpsF remains provisional. DNA sequence analysis of 1,100 bp upstream from the kpsF translational start site did not reveal any open reading frames longer than 174 nucleotides, consistent with kpsF being the first gene of region 1. Since kpsF appeared to be the first gene of a region whose gene products are required for polysialic acid transport and because capsule production is known to be thermoregulated, primer extension analyses were carried out with total RNA isolated from cells grown at permissive (37°C) and nonpermissive (20°C) temperatures. The results revealed a potentially complex kpsF promoter-like region that was transcriptionally silent at the nonpermissive temperature, suggesting that thermoregulation of region 1 may be exerted through variations in kpsF expression. Additional evidence supporting this conclusion was obtained by demonstrating the effects of temperature on expression of the gene kpsE, immediately downstream of kpsF. Chloramphenicol acetyltransferase assays were carried out with constructs containing the kpsF 5' untranslated region fused to a promoterless cat cassette, providing further evidence that kpsF is thermoregulated. Although the function of KpsF is unclear, primary structure analysis indicated two motifs commonly observed in regulatory proteins and homology with glucosamine synthase from Rhizobium meliloti.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3212-3220
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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