Metabolically versatile bacteria usually perceive aromatic compounds and hydrocarbons as non-preferred carbon sources, and their assimilation is inhibited if more preferable substrates are available. This is achieved via catabolite repression. In Pseudomonas putida, the expression of the genes allowing the assimilation of benzoate and n-alkanes is strongly inhibited by catabolite repression, a process controlled by the translational repressor Crc. Crc binds to and inhibits the translation of benR and alkS mRNAs, which encode the transcriptional activators that induce the expression of the benzoate and alkane degradation genes respectively. However, sequences similar to those recognized by Crc in benR and alkS mRNAs exist as well in the translation initiation regions of the mRNA of several structural genes of the benzoate and alkane pathways, which suggests that Crc may also regulate their translation. The present results show that some of these sites are functional, and that Crc inhibits the induction of both pathways by limiting not only the translation of their transcriptional activators, but also that of genes coding for the first enzyme in each pathway. Crc may also inhibit the translation of a gene involved in benzoate uptake. This multi-tier approach probably ensures the rapid regulation of pathway genes, minimizing the assimilation of non-preferred substrates when better options are available. A survey of possible Crc sites in the mRNAs of genes associated with other catabolic pathways suggested that targeting substrate uptake, pathway induction and/or pathway enzymes may be a common strategy to control the assimilation of non-preferred compounds.
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