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J Mol Biol. 2002 Sep 13;322(2):237-57.

A comprehensive alanine scanning mutagenesis of the Escherichia coli transcriptional activator SoxS: identifying amino acids important for DNA binding and transcription activation.

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1
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA.

Abstract

SoxS is the direct transcriptional activator of the superoxide regulon. SoxS recognizes a highly degenerate "soxbox" DNA sequence, and activates transcription from class I and class II promoters. SoxS is the smallest member of the AraC/XylS family of transcription regulators whose hallmark is dual helix-turn-helix (HTH) DNA-binding motifs. Evidence suggests that the N-terminal HTH motif of SoxS interacts with a highly conserved region of the soxbox termed recognition element 1 (RE1), while the C-terminal HTH motif interacts with the less conserved recognition element 2 (RE2). In the work described here, we prepared a complete library of 101 SoxS mutants containing single alanine substitutions of SoxS, and we characterized the mutant proteins in vivo and in vitro. With SoxS being closely related to MarA, we analyzed the effects of the SoxS mutations in the context of the MarA-mar crystal structure and with respect to the NMR study of MarA-DNA complexes in solution. From the properties of the alanine substitutions, we conclude the following. (1) Surface-exposed residues of helix 3 and helix 6, the recognition helices of the dual HTH motifs, are important to DNA binding and transcription activation; however, substitutions of residues predicted from the MarA-mar crystal structure to make contact with the sugar-phosphate backbone are more detrimental to DNA binding than mutations predicted to make base-specific contacts. (2) Substitution of several residues within the recognition helix predicted to make base-specific contacts with RE2 have relatively little effect on DNA-binding, suggesting the possibility of alternative protein-DNA interactions than those inferred from the MarA-mar crystal structure. (3) DNA binding and transcription activation were reduced by substitution of conserved amino acid residues comprising the hydrophobic core, presumably because they disrupt the structural integrity of SoxS. (4) Mutant K30A appears to be a positive control mutant defective in a protein-protein interaction with RNA polymerase that is required for transcription activation at all SoxS-dependent promoters because it binds and bends DNA normally but fails to activate transcription from both classes of promoters. Alanine substitutions of surface-exposed residues H3, K5, D9, S31, and V45 confer a similar phenotype. Since these residues are near K30 on the surface of the protein, the surface formed by the six residues may be used to make protein-protein interactions with RNA polymerase that are required for transcription activation at both class I and class II SoxS-dependent promoters. (5) Mutants F74A, D75A, M78A, D79A and Q85A appear to define a surface required for protein-protein interaction with RNA polymerase specifically at class II promoters because these positive control mutants bind and bend DNA normally but are defective in activation of class II promoters but not class I promoters. These SoxS mutants that bind and bend DNA normally but are defective in transcription activation represent the first positive control mutants with putative defects in protein-protein interactions with RNA polymerase among the SoxS/MarA/Rob subset of the AraC/XylS family of transcription regulators.

PMID:
12217688
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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