Desulfovibrio desulfuricans strain 27774 is one of a relative small group of sulfate-reducing bacteria that can also grow with nitrate as an alternative electron acceptor, but how nitrate reduction is regulated in any sulfate-reducing bacterium is controversial. Strain 27774 grew more rapidly and to higher yields of biomass with nitrate than with sulfate or nitrite as the only electron acceptor. In the presence of both sulfate and nitrate, sulfate was used preferentially, even when cultures were continuously gassed with nitrogen and carbon dioxide to prevent sulfide inhibition of nitrate reduction. The napC transcription start site was identified 112 bases upstream of the first base of the translation start codon. Transcripts initiated at the napC promoter that were extended across the napM-napA boundary were detected by reverse transcription-PCR, confirming that the six nap genes can be cotranscribed as a single operon. Real-time PCR experiments confirmed that nap operon expression is regulated at the level of mRNA transcription by at least two mechanisms: nitrate induction and sulfate repression. We speculate that three almost perfect inverted-repeat sequences located upstream of the transcription start site might be binding sites for one or more proteins of the CRP/FNR family of transcription factors that mediate nitrate induction and sulfate repression of nitrate reduction by D. desulfuricans.
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