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Molecular Characterization of MexL, the Transcriptional Repressor of the mexJK Multidrug Efflux Operon in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

  • Rungtip Chuanchuen
  • Jared B. Gaynor
  • RoxAnn Karkhoff-Schweizer
  • Herbert P. Schweizer
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
May 01, 2005
  • Biology


The Pseudomonas aeruginosa mexJK efflux operon is constitutively expressed in mutants with defects in the upstream mexL gene, which encodes a repressor of the TetR family. MexL and a MexLA47D mutant protein were purified from Escherichia coli as fusion proteins with carboxy-terminal hexahistidine tags. Native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and size exclusion chromatography revealed that MexL is a tetramer in solution. MexL and MexLA47D oligomerization was confirmed using a genetic approach, and the MexLA47D mutant protein was not impaired in multimerization. Gel mobility shift and footprinting assays demonstrated that MexL, but not MexLA47D, binds specifically to the 94-bp mexL-mexJ intergenic region to sequences located between positions −84 and −20 from the mexJ initiation codon. MexL protected about 60 nucleotides on each strand, and the protected regions overlapped almost perfectly, a finding consistent with MexL regulating the expression of both mexL and mexJK, which was ascertained by gene fusion analyses. The protected region contains predicted −10 and −35 promoter sequences for both mexL and mexJ, with partially overlapping −10 regions. The mexL promoter assignment was verified by mapping the mexL transcription start site, and the mexJ promoter was localized to the predicted regions using lacZ fusions. The MexL-protected region contains two inverted GTATTT repeats, and their location in the protected region and overlap with the mexL and mexJ promoter sequences strongly support a role in MexL binding.

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