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J Mol Biol. 2001 Jul 27;310(5):979-86.

Mechanism of Tet repressor induction by tetracyclines: length compensates for sequence in the alpha8-alpha9 loop.

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Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie, Institut für Mikrobiologie Biochemie und Genetik, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nurnberg, Germany.


Natural Tet repressor (TetR) variants are alpha-helical proteins bearing a large loop between helices 8 and 9, which is variable in sequence and length. We have deleted this loop consisting of 14 amino acid residues in TetR(D) and rebuilt it stepwise with up to 42 alanine residues. All except the mutant with the longest alanine loop show wild-type repression, but none is inducible with tetracycline. This demonstrates the importance of the alpha8-alpha9 loop and its amino acid sequence for induction. The induction efficiencies increase with loop length, when the more tightly binding inducer anhydrotetracycline is used. The largest increase of inducibility was observed for TetR mutants with loop lengths between eight and 17 alanine residues. Since loop residues Asp/Glu157 and Arg158 are conserved in the natural TetR sequence variants, we constructed a mutant in which all other residues of the loop were replaced by alanine. This mutant exhibits increased anhydrotetracycline induction compared to the corresponding alanine variant. Thus, these residues are important for induction. Binding constants for the anhydrotetracycline-TetR interaction are below the detection level of 10(5) M(-1) for the mutant with a loop of two alanine residues and increase sharply until a loop size of ten residues is reached. TetR variants with longer loops have similar anhydrotetracycline-binding constants, ranging between 2.6 x 10(9) M(-1) and 8.0 x 10(9) M(-1), about 500-fold lower than wild-type TetR. The increase of the affinity occurs at shorter loop lengths than that of inducibility. We conclude that the induction defect of the polyalanine variants arises from two increments: (i) the loop must have a minimal length-to allow efficient inducer binding; (ii) the loop must structurally participate in the conformational change associated with induction.

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