In Escherichia coli, the two-component Cpx system comprising the CpxA sensor kinase and the CpxR response regulator modulates gene expression in response to a variety of stresses including membrane-protein damage, starvation, and high osmolarity. To date, the few known CpxR-P target operons were mostly identified by genetic screens. To facilitate the discovery of all target operons, we derived a 15-bp weighted matrix for CpxR-P recognition that takes into account the relative base frequency at each nucleotide position. This matrix essentially consists of two tandem 5′-GTAAA-3′ motifs separated by a 5-bp linker. All of the 15-bp stretches on both strands of the E. coli MG1655 genome were then scored for their degree of matching with the matrix and classified in statistical deviation groups. The effectiveness of this screening is indicated by the identification of eight new target operons (ung, ompC, psd, mviA, aroK, rpoErseABC, secA, and aer) among eleven candidates tested. Moreover, the matrix score correlates with the likelihood that a site is a true target and with the relative site affinity for CpxR-P in vitro. Our data indicate that some 100 operons are under direct CpxR-P control and that the signal transduction pathway interacts with several other control circuits in manners hitherto unanticipated.
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