The Mercury Resistance (Mer) Operon In A Marine Gliding Flavobacterium, Tenacibaculum Discolor 9a5

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FEMS Microbiology Ecology


Genes conferring mercury resistance have been investigated in a variety of bacteria and archaea but not in bacteria of the phylum Bacteroidetes, despite their importance in many environments. We found, however, that a marine gliding Bacteroidetes species, Tenacibaculum discolor, was the predominant mercury-resistant bacterial taxon cultured from a salt marsh fertilized with mercury-contaminated sewage sludge. Here we report characterization of the mercuric reductase and the narrow-spectrum mercury resistance (mer) operon from one of these strains T. discolor 9A5. This mer operon, which confers mercury resistance when cloned into Flavobacterium johnsoniae, encodes a novel mercury-responsive ArsR/SmtB family transcriptional regulator that appears to have evolved independently from other mercury-responsive regulators, a novel putative transport protein consisting of a fusion between the integral membrane Hg(II) transporter MerT and the periplasmic Hg(II)-binding protein MerP, an additional MerP protein, and a mercuric reductase that is phylogenetically distinct from other known mercuric reductases.