Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

First Advisor

Matthew J. Wargo


The ability of bacteria to detect their surroundings and enact an appropriate response is critical for survival. Translation of external signals into a coherent response requires specific control over the transcription of DNA into RNA. Much of the regulation at this step is accomplished by transcriptional regulators, proteins that bind to DNA and alter gene expression. A wide-spread variety of regulators in bacteria is the AraC-family. These regulators are divided into two conserved domains and respond to a variety of compounds owing to different N-terminal domains. A subfamily of these regulators, GATase1-like AraC-family transcriptional regulators (GATRs), is described. These proteins contain an N-terminal domain with structural characteristics similar to enzymes that synthesize amine-containing compounds. Members of this subfamily of transcriptional regulators are found in a wide range of bacteria, however, few are characterized. A relatively high number of GATRs are encoded in the Burkholderia thailandensis genome. Therefore, we utilized this bacterium as a model to explore the function and diversity of these regulators.

GATRs in B. thailandensis divided into two groups based on bioinformatics analysis. The first group includes three members which we identified that contribute to the positive regulation of glycine betaine (GB) catabolism. GB can be utilized as a nutrient source or as a potent osmoprotectant. The regulation of this pathway in B. thailandensis differs from previously established models due to the interplay of these regulators. Homologs of two other GATRs in this group were identified that regulate carnitine and arginine catabolism. The second group of GATRs contains uncharacterized members with no known functions. A genetic strategy for engineering constitutive GATRs was developed and employed to investigate the transcriptional regulons of these GATRs. This approach yielded the identification of a novel GATR that represses expression of an operon producing a formaldehyde detoxification system, and is the first example of a GATR that functions as a repressor.



Number of Pages

226 p.

Included in

Microbiology Commons