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In Pseudomonas aeruginosa the alp system encodes a programmed cell death pathway that is switched on in a subset of cells in response to DNA damage and is linked to the virulence of the organism. Here we show that the central regulator of this pathway, AlpA, exerts its effects by acting as an antiterminator rather than a transcription activator. In particular, we present evidence that AlpA positively regulates the alpBCDE cell lysis genes, as well as genes in a second newly identified target locus, by recognizing specific DNA sites within the promoter, then binding RNA polymerase directly and allowing it to bypass intrinsic terminators positioned downstream. AlpA thus functions in a mechanistically unusual manner to control the expression of virulence genes in this opportunistic pathogen.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.