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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Feb;39(3):581-94.

Extensive alanine scanning reveals protein-protein and protein-DNA interaction surfaces in the global regulator FlhD from Escherichia coli.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology (M/C 790), College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, 835 S. Wolcott Ave., MSB E-603, Chicago, IL 60612-7344, USA.


FlhD and FlhC are the transcriptional activators of the flagellar regulon. The heterotetrameric complex formed by these two proteins activates the transcription of the class II flagellar genes. The flagellar regulon consists not only of flagellar genes, but also of the chemotactic genes and some receptor proteins. Recently, a connection between the flagellar regulon and some virulence genes has been found in some species. Furthermore, FlhD, but not FlhC, regulates another non-flagellar target. As a first attempt to understand the mechanism of the flagellar transcriptional activation by FlhD and FlhC, the structure of FlhD has been solved. In order to understand the mechanism of the action of FlhD when it regulates the flagellar genes, we conducted site-directed mutagenesis based on its three-dimensional structure. Six interaction surfaces in the FlhD dimer were mapped by alanine scanning mutagenesis. Two of them are surface clusters formed by residues His-2, Asp-28, Arg-35, Phe-34 and Asn-61 located at each side of the dimer core. The other four are located in the flexible arms of the dimer. The residues Ser-82, Arg-83, Val-84, His-91, Thr-92, Ile-94 and Leu-96 are located at this region. All these residues are involved in the FlhD/FlhC interaction with the exception of Ser-82, Arg-83 and Val-84. These three residues affect the DNA-binding ability of the complex. The three-dimensional topology of FlhD and the site-directed mutagenesis results support the hypothesis of FlhC as an allosteric effector that activates FlhD for the recognition of the DNA.

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