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Control of bacteriophage Mu lysogenic repression

C. Ranquet, A. Toussaint, H. de Jong,G. Maenhaut-Michel, J. Geiselmann

Journal of Molecular Biology, 353(1), 186-195, 2005.


The transposable and temperate phage Mu infects Escherichia coli where it can enter the lytic life-cycle or reside as a repressed and integrated prophage. The repressor protein Rep is the key element in the lysis-lysogeny decision. We have analyzed the fate of Rep in different mutants by Western blotting under two conditions that can induce a lysogen : high temperature and stationary phase. We show that, unexpectedly, Rep accumulates under all conditions where the prophage is completely derepressed, and that this accumulation is ClpX-dependent. An analysis of the degradation kinetics shows that Rep is a target of two protease systems : inactivation of either the clpP or lon gene results in a stabilization of Rep. Such a reaction scheme explains the counterintuitive observation that derepression is correlated with high repressor concentration. We conclude that under all conditions of phage induction the repressor is sequestered in a non-active form. A quantitative simulation accounts for our experimental data. It provides a model that captures the essential features of Mu induction and explains some of the mechanisms by which the physiological signals affecting the lysis-lysogeny decision converge onto Rep.

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