Streptomyces clavuligerus produces a collection of five clavam metabolites, including the clinically important β-lactamase inhibitor clavulanic acid, as well as four structurally related metabolites called 5S clavams. The paralogue gene cluster of S. clavuligerus is one of three clusters of genes for the production of these clavam metabolites. A region downstream of the cluster was analyzed, and snk, res1, and res2, encoding elements of an atypical two-component regulatory system, were located. Mutation of any one of the three genes had no effect on clavulanic acid production, but snk and res2 mutants produced no 5S clavams, whereas res1 mutants overproduced 5S clavams. Reverse transcriptase PCR analyses showed that transcription of cvm7p (which encodes a transcriptional activator of 5S clavam biosynthesis) and 5S clavam biosynthetic genes was eliminated in snk and in res2 mutants but that snk and res2 transcription was unaffected in a cvm7p mutant. Both snk and res2 mutants could be complemented by introduction of cvm7p under the control of an independently regulated promoter. In vitro assays showed that Snk can autophosphorylate and transfer its phosphate group to both Res1 and Res2, and Snk-H365, Res1-D52, and Res2-D52 were identified as the phosphorylation sites for the system. Dephosphorylation assays indicated that Res1 stimulates dephosphorylation of Res2∼P. These results suggest a regulatory cascade in which Snk and Res2 form a two-component system controlling cvm7p transcription, with Res1 serving as a checkpoint to modulate phosphorylation levels. Cvm7P then activates transcription of 5S clavam biosynthetic genes.
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