• transcript stability;
  • small protein;
  • regulation


The marRAB operon is conserved in seven genera of enteric bacteria (Escherichia, Shigella, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Salmonella, Cronobacter, and Citrobacter). MarA is a transcriptional regulator affecting many genes involved in resistance to stresses, and MarR is an autorepressor of the operon, but a role for the marB gene has been unclear. A recent work reported that deletion of marB causes resistance to certain stresses and increases the amount of marA transcript. We show here that the small (216 bp) marB gene encodes a protein, not an sRNA, because two different stop codons within the predicted open reading frame of marB prevented plasmid-borne marB from complementing ΔmarB::Kan. The ΔmarB::Kan mutation did not increase the stability of the marA transcript, suggesting that MarB does not destabilize the marA transcript but rather reduces its rate of transcription. Placing the putative signal sequence of MarB upstream of signal-sequence-less alkaline phosphatase guided the phosphatase to its normal periplasmic location. We conclude that MarB is a small periplasmic protein that represses the marRAB promoter by an indirect mechanism, possibly involving a signal to one of the cytoplasmic regulators of that promoter.