HU proteins have an important architectural role in nucleoid organization in bacteria. Compared with HU of many bacteria, HU proteins from species possess an N-terminal lysine-rich extension similar to the eukaryotic histone H1 C-terminal domain involved in DNA compaction. The single HU gene in , encoding DrHU, is required for nucleoid compaction and cell viability. contains three expressed HU genes, encoding DdHU1, DdHU2 and DdHU3. Here, we show that either DdHU1 or DdHU2 is essential in . DdHU1 and DdHU2, but not DdHU3, can substitute for DrHU in , indicating that DdHU3 may have a non-essential function different from DdHU1, DdHU2 and DrHU. Interestingly, the highly abundant DrHU and DdHU1 proteins, and also the less expressed DdHU2, are translated in from leaderless mRNAs, which lack a 5′-untranslated region and, hence, the Shine–Dalgarno sequence. Unexpectedly, cloning the DrHU or DdHU1 gene under control of a strong promoter in an expression plasmid, which results in leadered transcripts, strongly reduced the DrHU and DdHU1 protein level in compared with that obtained from the natural leaderless gene. We also show that the start codon position for DrHU and DdHU1 should be reannotated, resulting in proteins that are 15 and 4 aa residues shorter than initially reported. The expression level and start codon correction were crucial for functional characterization of HU in .


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