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J Bacteriol. 2003 Apr;185(7):2251-8.

The src homology 3-like domain of the diphtheria toxin repressor (DtxR) modulates repressor activation through interaction with the ancillary metal ion-binding site.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.


The diphtheria toxin repressor (DtxR) is a transition metal ion-activated repressor that acts as a global regulatory element in the control of iron-sensitive genes in Corynebacterium diphtheriae. We recently described (L. Sun, J. C. vanderSpek, and J. R. Murphy, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95:14985-14990, 1998) the isolation and in vivo characterization of a hyperactive mutant of DtxR, DtxR(E175K), that appeared to be constitutively active. We demonstrate here that while DtxR(E175K) remains active in vivo in the presence of 300 micro M 2,2'dipyridyl, the purified repressor is, in fact, dependent upon low levels of transition metal ion to transit from the inactive apo form to the active metal ion-bound form of the repressor. Binding studies using 8-anilino-1-naphthalenesulfonic acid suggest that the E175K mutation stabilizes an intermediate of the molten-globule form of the repressor, increasing exposure of hydrophobic residues to solvent. We demonstrate that the hyperactive DtxR(E175K) phenotype is dependent upon an intact ancillary metal ion-binding site (site 1) of the repressor. These observations support the hypothesis that metal ion binding in the ancillary site facilitates the conversion of the inactive apo-repressor to its active, operator-binding conformation. Furthermore, these results support the hypothesis that the C-terminal src homology 3-like domain of DtxR plays an active role in the modulation of repressor activity.

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