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Biochemistry. 1994 Nov 15;33(45):13274-83.

A site-directed spin-labeling study of ligand-induced conformational change in the ferric enterobactin receptor, FepA.

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  • 1Biophysics Research Institute, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226-0509.


The ferric enterobactin receptor, FepA, is a TonB-dependent gated porin that transports the siderophore ferric enterobactin across the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria. We have created two site-directed mutants of Escherichia coli FepA, in both cases introducing a cysteine residue into the putative ligand-binding domain. The introduced cysteines were then modified with nitroxide spin labels for structural and dynamic studies using electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy. The mutants were fully functional, as indicated by their ability to grow under iron-limiting conditions, their uptake of [59Fe]enterobactin, and their sensitivity to colicin B. Labeling of the mutant FepA receptors proceeded easily upon incubation with sulfhydryl-specific spin labels, e.g. MTSL, (1-oxy-2,2,5,5-tetramethylpyrrolidin-3-yl)methyl methanethiosulfonate. In contrast, spin labeling of the two native cysteines (Cys486 and Cys493) within wild-type FepA occurred only after treatment with a thiol reducing agent and partial denaturation in urea, suggesting that the native cysteines are disulfide-linked. ESR spectra showed a high degree of motional restriction for all three sites. Continuous wave (CW) saturation studies indicated that one of the mutationally introduced sites (Cys280) was surface-localized as evidenced by its exposure to the aqueous paramagnetic relaxation agent chromium oxalate and its low accessibility to O2. The other (Cys310) apparently occupies a site near the membrane/aqueous interface. The native cysteines occupy a site tightly packed within the protein structure with low accessibility to both CROX and O2. A shift in both conventional and saturation-transfer ESR spectra of MTSL-labeled E280C and E310C (but not MTSL-labeled wild type) FepA was observed upon addition of ferric enterobactin. The ESR spectral shift was dependent on ferric enterobactin concentration and did not occur with siderophores not recognized by FepA. Ferric enterobactin binding did not alter the CW saturation properties of MTSL bound to these sites, but did influence their accessibility to O2. These results provide consistent evidence for a ligand-specific conformational change in the surface peptides of FepA upon the binding of ferric enterobactin.

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