The DnaA protein is a key factor for the regulation of the timing and synchrony of initiation of bacterial DNA replication. The transcription of the dnaA gene in Escherichia coli is regulated by two promoters, dnaAP1 and dnaAP2. The region between these two promoters contains several DnaA-binding sites that have been shown to play an important role in the negative auto-regulation of dnaA expression. The results obtained in the present study using an in vitro and in vivo quantitative analysis of the effect of mutations to the high-affinity DnaA sites reveal an additional effect of positive autoregulation. We investigated the role of transcription autoregulation in the change of dnaA expression as a function of temperature. While negative auto-regulation is lost at dnaAP1, the effects of both positive and negative autoregulation are maintained at the dnaAP2 promoter upon lowering the growth temperature. These observations can be explained by the results obtained in vitro showing a difference in the temperature-dependence of DnaA–ATP binding to its high- and low-affinity sites, resulting in a decrease in DnaA–ATP oligomerization at lower temperatures. The results of the present study underline the importance of the role for autoregulation of gene expression in the cellular adaptation to different growth temperatures.

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