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Nucleic Acids Res. 2010 Aug;38(15):5226-41. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq277. Epub 2010 Apr 21.

A bacterial antirepressor with SH3 domain topology mimics operator DNA in sequestering the repressor DNA recognition helix.

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Instituto de Química-Física Rocasolano, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Madrid, Spain.


Direct targeting of critical DNA-binding elements of a repressor by its cognate antirepressor is an effective means to sequester the repressor and remove a transcription initiation block. Structural descriptions for this, though often proposed for bacterial and phage repressor-antirepressor systems, are unavailable. Here, we describe the structural and functional basis of how the Myxococcus xanthus CarS antirepressor recognizes and neutralizes its cognate repressors to turn on a photo-inducible promoter. CarA and CarH repress the carB operon in the dark. CarS, produced in the light, physically interacts with the MerR-type winged-helix DNA-binding domain of these repressors leading to activation of carB. The NMR structure of CarS1, a functional CarS variant, reveals a five-stranded, antiparallel beta-sheet fold resembling SH3 domains, protein-protein interaction modules prevalent in eukaryotes but rare in prokaryotes. NMR studies and analysis of site-directed mutants in vivo and in vitro unveil a solvent-exposed hydrophobic pocket lined by acidic residues in CarS, where the CarA DNA recognition helix docks with high affinity in an atypical ligand-recognition mode for SH3 domains. Our findings uncover an unprecedented use of the SH3 domain-like fold for protein-protein recognition whereby an antirepressor mimics operator DNA in sequestering the repressor DNA recognition helix to activate transcription.

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