Regulation of alginate catabolism involves a GntR family repressor in the marine flavobacterium Zobellia galactanivorans DsijT


Marine flavobacteria possess dedicated Polysaccharide Utilization Loci (PULs) enabling efficient degradation of a variety of algal polysaccharides. The expression of these PULs is tightly controlled by the presence of the substrate, yet details on the regulatory mechanisms are still lacking. The marine flavobacterium Zobellia galactanivorans DsijT digests many algal polysaccharides, including alginate from brown algae. Its complex Alginate Utilization System (AUS) comprises a PUL and several other loci. Here, we showed that the expression of the AUS is strongly and rapidly (<30 min) induced upon addition of alginate, leading to biphasic substrate utilization. Polymeric alginate is first degraded into smaller oligosaccharides that accumulate in the extracellular medium before being assimilated. We found that AusR, a GntR family protein encoded within the PUL, regulates alginate catabolism by repressing the transcription of most AUS genes. Based on our genetic, genomic, transcriptomic and biochemical results, we propose the first model of regulation for a PUL in marine bacteria. AusR binds to promoters of AUS genes via single, double or triple copies of operator. Upon addition of alginate, secreted enzymes expressed at a basal level catalyze the initial breakdown of the polymer. Metabolic intermediates produced during degradation act as effectors of AusR and inhibit the formation of AusR/DNA complexes, thus lifting transcriptional repression.

Nucleic Acids Research