In vivo studies of upstream regulatory cis-acting elements of the alcR gene encoding the transactivator of the ethanol regulon in Aspergillus nidulans



The alcR gene of Aspergillus nidulans, which encodes the specific transactivator of the ethanol utilization pathway, is positively autoregulated and carbon catabolite repressed. Regulation by these two circuits occurs at the transcriptional level via the binding of the two regulators, AlcR and CreA, to their cognate targets respectively. We demonstrate here that out of two clustered putative AlcR repeated consensus sequences, only the palindromic target is functional in vivo. Hence, it is solely responsible for the alcR positive autogenous activation loop. Transcript mapping of the alcR gene showed that transcription initiation can occur at 553 bp and at or near 86 bp upstream of the start codon. These transcription start sites yield a transcript of 3.0 kb, which appears only under induced growth conditions, and of 2.6 kb, which is present under both induced and non-induced growth conditions respectively. Nine CreA consensus sites are present in the alcR promoter but only two pairs of two sites are functional in vivo. One of them is located in close proximity to the AlcR functional target. Within this pair, both sites are necessary to mediate a partial repression of alcR transcription. Disruption of either site results in an overexpression of alcR due to the absence of direct competition between AlcR and CreA for the same DNA region. The second functional pair of CreA sites is located between the two transcription initiation sites. Disruption of either of the two sites results in a totally derepressed alcR transcription, showing that they work as a pair constituting the more efficient repression mechanism. Thus, CreA acts by two different mechanisms: by competing with AlcR for the same DNA region and by an efficient direct repression. The latter mechanism presumably interfers with the general transcriptional machinery.