The role of nitrogen-responsive regulators in controlling inorganic polyphosphate synthesis in Escherichia coli

Academic Article


  • Inorganic polyphosphate (polyP) is synthesized by bacteria under stressful environmental conditions and acts by a variety of mechanisms to promote cell survival. While the kinase that synthesizes polyP (PPK, encoded by the ppk gene) is well known, ppk transcription is not activated by environmental stress and little is understood about how environmental stress signals lead to polyP accumulation. Previous work has shown that the transcriptional regulators DksA, RpoN (σ54) and RpoE (σ24) positively regulate polyP production, but not ppk transcription, in Escherichia coli. In this work, we examine the role of the alternative sigma factor RpoN and nitrogen starvation stress response pathways in controlling polyP synthesis. We show that the RpoN enhancer binding proteins GlnG and GlrR impact polyP production, and uncover a new role for the nitrogen phosphotransferase regulator PtsN (EIIANtr) as a positive regulator of polyP production, acting upstream of DksA, downstream of RpoN and apparently independently of RpoE. However, neither these regulatory proteins nor common nitrogen metabolites appear to act directly on PPK, and the precise mechanism(s) by which polyP production is modulated after stress remain(s) unclear. Unex-pectedly, we also found that the genes that impact polyP production vary depending on the composition of the rich media in which the cells were grown before exposure to polyP-inducing stress. These results constitute progress towards deciphering the regulatory networks driving polyP production under stress, and highlight the remarkable complexity of this regulation and its connections to a broad range of stress-sensing pathways.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Microbiology  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bowlin MQ; Long AR; Huffines JT; Gray MJ
  • Volume

  • 168
  • Issue

  • 4