Evolution of transcriptional regulation of histidine metabolism in Gram-positive bacteria

German A. Ashniev, Natalia V. Sernova, Aleksei E. Shevkoplias, Ivan D. Rodionov, Irina A. Rodionova, Alexey G. Vitreschak, Mikhail S. Gelfand, Dmitry A. Rodionov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The histidine metabolism and transport (his) genes are controlled by a variety of RNA-dependent regulatory systems among diverse taxonomic groups of bacteria including T-box riboswitches in Firmicutes and Actinobacteria and RNA attenuators in Proteobacteria. Using a comparative genomic approach, we previously identified a novel DNA-binding transcription factor (named HisR) that controls the histidine metabolism genes in diverse Gram-positive bacteria from the Firmicutes phylum. Results: Here we report the identification of HisR-binding sites within the regulatory regions of the histidine metabolism and transport genes in 395 genomes representing the Bacilli, Clostridia, Negativicutes, and Tissierellia classes of Firmicutes, as well as in 97 other HisR-encoding genomes from the Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, and Synergistetes phyla. HisR belongs to the TrpR family of transcription factors, and their predicted DNA binding motifs have a similar 20-bp palindromic structure but distinct lineage-specific consensus sequences. The predicted HisR-binding motif was validated in vitro using DNA binding assays with purified protein from the human gut bacterium Ruminococcus gnavus. To fill a knowledge gap in the regulation of histidine metabolism genes in Firmicutes genomes that lack a hisR repressor gene, we systematically searched their upstream regions for potential RNA regulatory elements. As result, we identified 158 T-box riboswitches preceding the histidine biosynthesis and/or transport genes in 129 Firmicutes genomes. Finally, novel candidate RNA attenuators were identified upstream of the histidine biosynthesis operons in six species from the Bacillus cereus group, as well as in five Eubacteriales and six Erysipelotrichales species. Conclusions: The obtained distribution of the HisR transcription factor and two RNA-mediated regulatory mechanisms for histidine metabolism genes across over 600 species of Firmicutes is discussed from functional and evolutionary points of view.

Original languageEnglish
Article number558
JournalBMC Genomics
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Bacteria
  • Comparative genomics
  • Histidine metabolism
  • RNA attenuation
  • Transcription regulation


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