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J Mol Biol. 2009 Dec 11;394(4):764-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2009.09.055. Epub 2009 Oct 3.

A lower-order oligomer form of phage shock protein A (PspA) stably associates with the hexameric AAA(+) transcription activator protein PspF for negative regulation.

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Division of Biology, Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2AZ, UK.


To survive and colonise their various environments, including those used during infection, bacteria have developed a variety of adaptive systems. Amongst these is phage shock protein (Psp) response, which can be induced in Escherichia coli upon filamentous phage infection (specifically phage secretin pIV) and by other membrane-damaging agents. The E. coli Psp system comprises seven proteins, of which PspA is the central component. PspA is a bifunctional protein that is directly involved in (i) the negative regulation of the psp-specific transcriptional activator PspF and (ii) the maintenance of membrane integrity in a mechanism proposed to involve the formation of a 36-mer ring complex. Here we established that the PspA negative regulation of PspF ATPase activity is the result of a cooperative inhibition. We present biochemical evidence showing that an inhibitory PspA-PspF regulatory complex, which has significantly reduced PspF ATPase activity, is composed of around six PspF subunits and six PspA subunits, suggesting that PspA exists in at least two different oligomeric assemblies. We now establish that all four putative helical domains of PspA are critical for the formation of the 36-mer. In contrast, not all four helical domains are required for the formation of the inhibitory PspA-PspF complex. Since a range of initial PspF oligomeric states permit formation of the apparent PspA-PspF dodecameric assembly, we conclude that PspA and PspF demonstrate a strong propensity to self-assemble into a single defined heteromeric regulatory complex.

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