The Era-like GTPase TrmE conditionally activates gadE and glutamate-dependent acid resistance in Escherichia coli


E-mail; Tel. (+1) 251 460 6323; Fax (+1) 251 460 7931.


Escherichia coli survives pH 2 acid stress at a level rivalling Helicobacter pylori. Of the three E. coli acid resistance systems involved, the one most efficient and most studied uses isozymes of glutamate decarboxylase (GadA/GadB) to consume intracellular protons, and a glutamate:γ-amino butyric acid (GABA) anti-porter (GadC) to expel GABA in exchange for extracellular glutamate. Because acid resistance is a critical factor in resisting stomach acidity, mechanisms that control this system are extremely important. Here we show that an Era-like, molecular switch GTPase called TrmE regulates glutamate-dependent acid resistance. Western blot analysis revealed a TrmE-dependent, glucose-induced system and a TrmE-independent, glucose-repressed pathway. Gene fusion studies indicated that the TrmE requirement for GadA/B production takes place at both the transcriptional and translational levels. TrmE controls GAD transcription by affecting the expression of GadE, the essential activator of the gadA and gadBC genes. TrmE most probably controls gadE expression indirectly by influencing the synthesis or activity of an unknown regulator that binds the gadE control region. Translational control of GAD production by TrmE appears to be more direct, affecting synthesis of the decarboxylase and the anti-porter proteins. TrmE GTPase activity was critical for both the transcriptional and translational effects. Thus, TrmE is part of an increasingly complex control network designed to integrate diverse physiological signals and forecast future exposures to extreme acid. The significance of this network extends beyond acid resistance as the target of this control, GadE, regulates numerous genes in addition to gadA/BC.