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FEBS J. 2009 Jan;276(1):76-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2008.06755.x.

Studies on structural and functional divergence among seven WhiB proteins of Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv.

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Institute of Microbial Technology, CSIR, Chandigarh, India.


The whiB-like genes (1-7) of Mycobacterium tuberculosis are involved in cell division, nutrient starvation, pathogenesis, antibiotic resistance and stress sensing. Although the biochemical properties of WhiB1, WhiB3 and WhiB4 are known, there is no information about the other proteins. Here, we elucidate in detail the biochemical and biophysical properties of WhiB2, WhiB5, WhiB6 and WhiB7 of M. tuberculosis and present a comprehensive comparative study on the molecular properties of all WhiB proteins. UV-Vis spectroscopy has suggested the presence of a redox-sensitive [2Fe-2S] cluster in each of the WhiB proteins, which remains stably bound to the proteins in the presence of 8 m urea. The [2Fe-2S] cluster of each protein was oxidation labile but the rate of cluster loss decreased under reducing environments. The [2Fe-2S] cluster of each WhiB protein responded differently to the oxidative effect of air and oxidized glutathione. In all cases, disassembly of the [2Fe-2S] cluster was coupled with the oxidation of cysteine-thiols and the formation of two intramolecular disulfide bonds. Both CD and fluorescence spectroscopy revealed that WhiB proteins are structurally divergent members of the same family. Similar to WhiB1, WhiB3 and WhiB4, apo WhiB5, WhiB6 and WhiB7 also reduced the disulfide of insulin, a model substrate. However, the reduction efficiency varied significantly. Surprisingly, WhiB2 did not reduce the insulin disulfide, even though its basic properties were similar to those of others. The structural and functional divergence among WhiB proteins indicated that each WhiB protein is a distinguished member of the same family and together they may represent a novel redox system for M. tuberculosis.

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