Branched-chain amino acids are the most abundant amino acids in proteins. The Bacillus subtilis ilv-leu operon is involved in the biosynthesis of branched-chain amino acids. This operon exhibits a RelA-dependent positive stringent response to amino acid starvation. We investigated this positive stringent response upon lysine starvation as well as decoyinine treatment. Deletion analysis involving various lacZ fusions revealed two molecular mechanisms underlying the positive stringent response of ilv-leu, i.e., CodY-dependent and -independent mechanisms. The former is most likely triggered by the decrease in the in vivo concentration of GTP upon lysine starvation, GTP being a corepressor of the CodY protein. So, the GTP decrease derepressed ilv-leu expression through detachment of the CodY protein from its cis elements upstream of the ilv-leu promoter. By means of base substitution and in vitro transcription analyses, the latter (CodY-independent) mechanism was found to comprise the modulation of the transcription initiation frequency, which likely depends on fluctuation of the in vivo RNA polymerase substrate concentrations after stringent treatment, and to involve at least the base species of adenine at the 5′ end of the ilv-leu transcript. As discussed, this mechanism is presumably distinct from that for B. subtilis rrn operons, which involves changes in the in vivo concentration of the initiating GTP.
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