FNR is a well-studied global regulator of anaerobiosis, which is widely conserved across bacteria. Despite the importance of FNR and anaerobiosis in microbial lifestyles, the factors that influence its function on a genome-wide scale are poorly understood. Here, we report a functional genomic analysis of FNR action. We find that FNR occupancy at many target sites is strongly influenced by nucleoid-associated proteins (NAPs) that restrict access to many FNR binding sites. At a genome-wide level, only a subset of predicted FNR binding sites were bound under anaerobic fermentative conditions and many appeared to be masked by the NAPs H-NS, IHF and Fis. Similar assays in cells lacking H-NS and its paralog StpA showed increased FNR occupancy at sites bound by H-NS in WT strains, indicating that large regions of the genome are not readily accessible for FNR binding. Genome accessibility may also explain our finding that genome-wide FNR occupancy did not correlate with the match to consensus at binding sites, suggesting that significant variation in ChIP signal was attributable to cross-linking or immunoprecipitation efficiency rather than differences in binding affinities for FNR sites. Correlation of FNR ChIP-seq peaks with transcriptomic data showed that less than half of the FNR-regulated operons could be attributed to direct FNR binding. Conversely, FNR bound some promoters without regulating expression presumably requiring changes in activity of condition-specific transcription factors. Such combinatorial regulation may allow Escherichia coli to respond rapidly to environmental changes and confer an ecological advantage in the anaerobic but nutrient-fluctuating environment of the mammalian gut.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research