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Eur J Biochem. 1999 Jul;263(2):455-63.

Phosphorylation, dephosphorylation and DNA-binding of the Bradyrhizobium japonicum RegSR two-component regulatory proteins.

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Mikrobiologisches Institut, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zürich, Switzerland.


Under low oxygen conditions, induction of many genes required for nitrogen fixation in Bradyrhizobium japonicum depends on the redox-responsive transcriptional activator NifA which is encoded in the fixR-nifA operon. Basal expression of this operon depends on the response regulator RegR and a DNA element located around position -68 in the fixR-nifA promoter region. To investigate the functional properties of RegR and the interaction with its putative cognate kinase, RegS, we overproduced and affinity-purified RegR and a truncated soluble variant of RegS (RegS(C)), both as N-terminally His(6)-tagged proteins. RegS(C) autophosphorylated when incubated with [gamma-(32)P]ATP, and it catalyzed the transfer of the phosphoryl label to RegR. The phosphorylated form of RegS(C) exhibited phosphatase activity on RegR-phosphate. Chemical stability tests and site-specific mutagenesis identified amino acids H219 and D63 of RegS and RegR, respectively, as the phosphorylated residues. Competition experiments with isolated domains demonstrated that the N-terminal but not the C-terminal domain of RegR interacts with RegS(C). Band-shift experiments revealed that phosphorylated RegR had at least eightfold enhanced DNA-binding activity compared with dephosphorylated RegR or the mutant protein RegR-D63N, which cannot be phosphorylated. In conclusion, the RegSR proteins of B. japonicum exhibit functional properties in vitro that are typical of two-component regulatory systems.

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