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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2003 May 16;222(1):17-23.

HutC/FarR-like bacterial transcription factors of the GntR family contain a small molecule-binding domain of the chorismate lyase fold.

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  • 1National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA.


Numerous bacterial transcription factors contain a DNA-binding helix-turn-helix domain and a signaling domain, linked together in a single polypeptide. Typically, this signaling domain is a small-molecule-binding domain that undergoes a conformational change upon recognizing a specific ligand. The HutC/FarR-like transcription factors of the GntR family are one of the largest groups of transcription factors in the proteomes of most free-living bacteria. Using sensitive sequence profile analysis we show that the HutC/FarR-like transcription factors contain a conserved ligand-binding domain, which possesses the same fold as chorismate lyase (Escherichia coli UbiC gene product). This relationship suggests that the C-terminal domain of the HutC/FarR-like transcription factors binds small molecules in a cleft similar to the substrate-binding site of the chorismate lyases. The sequence diversity within the predicted binding cleft of the HutC/FarR ligand-binding domains is consistent with the ability of these transcription factors to respond to diverse small molecules, such as histidine (HutC), fatty acids (FarR), sugars (TreR) and alkylphosphonate (PhnF). UbiC-like chorismate lyases function in the ubiquinone biosynthesis pathway, and have characteristic charged, catalytic residues. Genome comparisons reveal that chorismate lyase orthologs are found in several bacteria, chloroplasts of eukaryotic algae and euryarchaea. In contrast, the GntR transcription regulators lack the conserved catalytic residues of the chorismate lyases, and have so far been detected only in bacteria. An ancestral, generic small-molecule-binding domain appears to have given rise to the enzymatic and non-catalytic ligand-binding versions of the same fold under the influence of different selective pressures.

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