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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Oxygen regulation of nifA transcription in vitro.

In Rhizobium meliloti, transcription of the key nitrogen-fixation regulatory genes nifA and fixK is induced in response to microaerobiosis through the action of the FixL and FixJ proteins. These two proteins are sensor and regulator homologues, respectively, of a large family of bacterial two-component systems involved in sensing and responding to environmental changes. A soluble, truncated form of the membrane protein FixL, FixL*, has been shown to be a hemoprotein that phosphorylates and dephosphorylates FixJ in response to oxygen tension. Here we use an in vitro transcription system to prove that FixJ is a transcriptional activator of both nifA and fixK and that phosphorylation of FixJ markedly increases its activity. Phosphorylation was achieved either by preincubating FixJ with FixL* and ATP or by exposing FixJ to the inorganic phospho donor ammonium hydrogen phosphoramidate. Both FixJ and FixJ-phosphate formed heparin-resistant complexes under the assay conditions used. Lastly, we were able to show that anaerobiosis, in the presence of FixL* and ATP, greatly stimulates FixJ activity at the nifA promoter with either Escherichia coli or R. meliloti RNA polymerase. This use of atmospheric oxygen to control nifA transcription in vitro represents a reconstitution of a bacterial two-component signal transduction system in its entirety, from effector to ultimate target, by the use of purified components.[1]


  1. Oxygen regulation of nifA transcription in vitro. Agron, P.G., Ditta, G.S., Helinski, D.R. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (1993) [Pubmed]
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