The chromosomal arsenic resistance genes of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans have an unusual arrangement and confer increased arsenic and antimony resistance to Escherichia coli

Butcher, Bronwyn G. ; Deane, Shelly M. ; Rawlings, Douglas E. (2000-05)

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The chromosomal arsenic resistance genes of the acidophilic, chemolithoautotrophic, biomining bacterium Thiobacillus ferrooxidans were cloned and sequenced. Homologues of four arsenic resistance genes, arsB, arsC, arsH, and a putative arsR gene, were identified. The T. ferrooxidans arsB (arsenite export) and arsC (arsenate reductase) gene products were functional when they were cloned in an Escherichia coli ars deletion mutant and conferred increased resistance to arsenite, arsenate, and antimony. Therefore, despite the fact that the ars genes originated from an obligately acidophilic bacterium, they were functional in E. coli. Although T. ferrooxidans is gram negative, its ArsC was more closely related to the ArsC molecules of gram-positive bacteria. Furthermore, a functional trxA (thioredoxin) gene was required for ArsC-mediated arsenate resistance in E. coli; this finding confirmed the gram-positive ArsC-like status of this resistance and indicated that the division of ArsC molecules based on Gram staining results is artificial. Although arsH was expressed in an E. coli- derived in vitro transcription-translation system, ArsH was not required for and did not enhance arsenic resistance in E. coli. The T. ferrooxidans ars genes were arranged in an unusual manner, and the putative arsR and arsC genes and the arsBH genes were translated in opposite directions. This divergent orientation was conserved in the four T. ferrooxidans strains investigated.

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