We examined the gene expression of the Escherichia coli cad operon, which consisted of the genes cadB and cadA (lysine decarboxylase), using cells possessing cadB-lacZ fusion gene. The cad operon was expressed when O2 was limited, and the expression was optimal at pH 6.3. The beta-galactosidase activity was lowered by the addition of sodium carbonate to the medium. The expression of the cad operon was reduced in cells containing the plasmid-encoding ornithine decarboxylase, which produced carbon dioxide, indicating that the gene expression of the cad operon was regulated by carbon dioxide (or its derivatives). It is known that the Krebs cycle is a major pathway for producing carbon dioxide, and that its activity is repressed when O2 is limited. Thus, our present results suggested that the physiological role of the cad operon is to supply carbon dioxide when its internal level is lowered under O2-limiting conditions at a low pH.

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