A Novel Regulatory Mechanism for a Novel Phase-Variable Outer Membrane Protein of Escherichia coli

  • Ian R. Henderson
  • Mary Meehan
  • Peter Owen
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 412)


Antigen 43 (Ag43) is a prominent hetero-oligomeric protein complex in the outer membrane of Escherichia coli. It is composed of two subunits. α43 (M r 60, 000) and β43 (M r 53, 000) in 1:1 stoichiometry. α43 is surface expressed, extends beyond the O-side chains of smooth lipopolysaccharide and is bound to the cell surface through an interaction with β43 itself an integral outer membrane protein. α43 shows limited sequence homology with some enterobacterial adhesins. Expression of Ag43 is subject to reversible phase variation, the rates of variation from the Ag43+ve to Ag43-ve states in liquid minimal medium being ~2.2 × 10−3, the corresponding rates from Ag43-ve to Ag43f+ve states being ~1 × 10−3. Phase switching of genes encoding Ag43 are transcriptionally regulated by DNA methylation (deoxyadenosine methylase [dam] mutants being “locked OFF”) and by OxyR (oxyR mutants being “locked ON”). It is proposed that OxyR acts as a repressor of Ag43 transcription by binding to unmethylated GATC sites in the regulatory region of the gene. Sequencing and mapping has identified Ag43 as the likely product of the metastable flu gene first described in 1980 by Diderichsen and responsible for colony form variation in E. coli.


Outer Membrane Outer Membrane Protein Western Immunoblotting Ag43 Expression GATC Site 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian R. Henderson
    • 1
  • Mary Meehan
    • 1
  • Peter Owen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology, Moyne Institute of Preventive MedicineTrinity College DublinIreland

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