Divergence and transcriptional analysis of the division cell wall (dcw) gene cluster in Neisseria spp.

Snyder, Lori A. S., Shafer, William M. and Saunders, Nigel J. (2003) Divergence and transcriptional analysis of the division cell wall (dcw) gene cluster in Neisseria spp. Molecular Microbiology, 47(2), pp. 431-442. ISSN (print) 0950-382X


Three of the 18 open reading frames in the division and cell wall synthesis cluster of the pathogenic Neisseria spp. are not present in the clusters of other bacterial species. The region containing two of these, dcaB and dcaC, displays interstrain and interspecies variability uncharacteristic of such clusters. 3' of dcaB is a Correia repeat enclosed element (CREE), which is only present in some strains. It has been suggested that this CREE is a transcriptional terminator, although we demonstrate otherwise. A gearbox-like promoter within this CREE is active in Escherichia coli but not in Neisseria meningitidis. There is an active promoter 5' of dcaC, although its sequence is not conserved. The presence of similarly located promoters has not been demonstrated in other species. In Neisseria lactamica, this promoter involves another dcw-associated CREE, the first demonstration of active promoter generation at the 5' end of this common intergenic, apparently mobile, element. Upstream of this promoter is an inverted pair of neisserial uptake signal sequences, which are commonly considered to be transcriptional terminators. It has been proposed to terminate transcription in this location, although we have demonstrated transcript extending through this uptake signal sequence. dcaC contains a 108 bp tandem repeat, which is present in different copy numbers in the neisserial strains examined. This investigation reveals extensive sequence variation, disputes the presence of transcriptional terminators and identifies active internal promoters in this normally highly conserved cluster of essential genes, and addresses the transcriptional activity of two common neisserial intergenic components.

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