This work describes an approach towards analyzing the regulatory effects of variation of guanosine 3′,5′-bispyrophosphate (ppGpp) basal levels in Escherichia coli during steady state growth. A series of strains was derived by mutating the spoT gene (which encodes the major cellular ppGppase) so as to obtain systematic increments in ppGpp basal levels. These strains differ genetically at the spoT locus and, in some cases, also at the relA locus because of the severity of spoT mutant alleles. Measurements of ppGpp revealed a ten-fold range of basal levels during growth on minimal medium. The empirical relationship between ppGpp concentration and growth rate is a simple linear inverse correlation. Tandem rrnA ribosomal RNA promoters, present on a multicopy plasmid, are shown to be differentially regulated over this range of basal levels. The upstream P1 promoter activity shows an inverse exponential relation to ppGpp concentration whereas the downstream P2 promoter is only weakly affected. We conclude that there are systematic regulatory consequences associated with small changes in ppGpp basal levels during steady state growth that probably are part of a continuum with more dramatic effects observed during the stringent response to amino acid deprivation.
- Growth rate control
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