Comparative genomics of bacterial zinc regulons: Enhanced ion transport, pathogenesis, and rearrangement of ribosomal proteins

Ekaterina M. Panina, Andrey A. Mironov, Mikhail S. Gelfand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

219 Citations (Scopus)


Zinc is an important component of many proteins, but in large concentrations it is poisonous to the cell. Thus its transport is regulated by zinc repressors ZUR of proteobacteria and Gram-positive bacteria from the Bacillus group and AdcR of bacteria from the Streptococcus group. Comparative computational analysis allowed us to identify binding signals of ZUR repressors GAAATGTTATANTATAACATTTC for γ-proteobacteria, GTAATGTAATAACATTAC for the Agrobacterium group, GATATGTTATAACATATC for the Rhododoccus group, TAAATCGTAATNATTACGATTA for Gram-positive bacteria, and TTAACYRGTTAA of the streptococcal AdcR repressor. In addition to known transporters and their paralogs, zinc regulons were predicted to contain a candidate component of the ATP binding cassette, zinT (b 1995 in Escherichia coli and yrpE in Bacillus subtilis). Candidate AdcR-binding sites were identified upstream of genes encoding pneumococcal histidine triad (PHT) proteins from a number of pathogenic streptococci. Protein functional analysis of this family suggests that PHT proteins are involved in the invasion process. Finally, repression by zinc was predicted for genes encoding a variety of paralogs of ribosomal proteins. The original copies of all these proteins contain zinc-ribbon motifs and thus likely bind zinc, whereas these motifs are destroyed in zinc-regulated paralogs. We suggest that the induction of these paralogs in conditions of zinc starvation leads to their incorporation in a fraction of ribosomes instead of the original ribosomal proteins; the latter are then degraded with subsequent release of some zinc for the utilization by other proteins. Thus we predict a mechanism for maintaining zinc availability for essential enzymes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9912-9917
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


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