Inducible gene expression and environmentally regulated genes in lactic acid bacteria
Relatively recently, a number of genes and operons have been identified in lactic acid bacteria that are inducible and respond to environmental factors. Some of these genes/operons had been isolated and analysed because of their importance in the fermentation industry and, consequently, their transcription was studied and found to be regulatable. Examples are the lactose operon, the operon for nisin production, and genes in the proteolytic pathway of Lactococcus lactis, as well as xylose metabolism in Lactobacillus pentosus. Some other operons were specifically targetted with the aim to compare their mode of regulation with known regulatory mechanisms in other well-studied bacteria. These studies, dealing with the biosynthesis of histidine, tryptophan, and of the branched chain amino acids in L. lactis, have given new insights in gene regulation and in the occurrence of auxotrophy in these bacteria. Also, nucleotide sequence analyses of a number of lactococcal bacteriophages was recently initiated to, among other things, specifically learn more about regulation of the phage life cycle. Yet another approach in the analysis of regulated genes in the ‘random’ selection of genetic elements that respond to environmental stimuli and the first of such sequences from lactic acid bacteria have been identified and characterized. The potential of these regulatory elements in fundamental research and practical (industrial) applications will be discussed.