Journal of bacteriology

In the NadR regulon, adhesins and diverse meningococcal functions are regulated in response to signals in human saliva.

PMID 22081399


The Neisseria meningitidis regulator NadR was shown to repress expression of the NadA adhesin and play a major role in NadA phase-variable expression. In this study, we identified through microarray analysis over 30 genes coregulated with nadA in the NadR mutant and defined members of the NadR regulon through in vitro DNA-binding assays. Two distinct types of promoter architectures (I and II) were identified for NadR targets, differing in both the number and position of NadR-binding sites. All NadR-regulated genes investigated were found to respond to 4-hydroxyphenylacetic acid (4HPA), a small molecule secreted in human saliva, which was previously demonstrated to induce nadA expression by alleviating NadR-dependent repression. Interestingly, two types of NadR 4HPA responsive activities were found on different NadR targets corresponding to the two types of genes identified by different promoter architectures: while NadA and the majority of NadR targets (type I) are induced, only the MafA adhesins (type II) are corepressed in response to the same 4HPA signal. This alternate behavior of NadR was confirmed in a panel of strains in response to 4HPA and after incubation in saliva. The in vitro NadR binding activity at type I and type II promoter regions is differentially affected by 4HPA, suggesting that the nature of the NadR binding sites may define the regulation to which they will be subjected. We conclude that NadR coordinates a broad transcriptional response to signals present in human saliva, mimicked in vitro by 4HPA, enabling the meningococcus to adapt to the relevant host niche.

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4-Hydroxyphenylacetic acid, 98%