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Regulation of transcription of cell division genes in the Escherichia coli dcw cluster

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The Escherichia coli dcw cluster contains cell division genes, such as the phylogenetically ubiquitous ftsZ, and genes involved in peptidoglycan synthesis. Transcription in the cluster proceeds in the same direction as the progress of the replication fork along the chromosome. Regulation is exerted at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. The absence of transcriptional termination signals may, in principle, allow extension of the transcripts initiated at the upstream promoter (mraZ1p) even to the furthest down stream gene (envA). Complementation tests suggest that they extend into ftsW in the central part of the cluster. In addition, the cluster contains other promoters individually regulated by cis- and trans-acting signals. Dissociation of the expression of the ftsZ gene, located after ftsQ and A near the 3′ end of the cluster, from its natural regulatory signals leads to an alteration in the physiology of cell division. The complexities observed in the regulation of gene expression in the cluster may then have an important biological role. Among them, LexA- binding SOS boxes have been found at the 5′ end of the cluster, preceding promoters which direct the expression of ftsI (coding for PBP3, the penicillin-binding protein involved in septum formation). A gearbox promoter, ftsQ1p, forms part of the signals regulating the transcription of ftsQ, A and Z. It is an inversely growth-dependent mechanism driven by RNA polymerase containing σ s, the factor involved in the expression of stationary phase-specific genes. Although the dcw cluster is conserved to a different extent in a variety of bacteria, the regulation of gene expression, the presence or absence of individual genes, and even the essentiality of some of them, show variations in the phylogenetic scale which may reflect adaptation to specific life cycles.

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Vicente, M., Gomez, M. & Ayala, J. Regulation of transcription of cell division genes in the Escherichia coli dcw cluster. CMLS, Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 54, 317–324 (1998).

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