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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Oct;40(18):8942-52. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks669. Epub 2012 Jul 13.

Higher order oligomerization is required for H-NS family member MvaT to form gene-silencing nucleoprotein filament.

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NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering, National University of Singapore, 28 Medical Drive, Singapore 117456.


MvaT from Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a member of the histone-like nucleoid structuring protein (H-NS) family of nucleoid-associated proteins widely spread among Gram-negative bacteria that functions to repress the expression of many genes. Recently, it was reported that H-NS from Escherichia coli can form rigid nucleoproteins filaments on DNA, which are important for their gene-silencing function. This raises a question whether the gene-silencing function of MvaT, which has only ∼18% sequence similarity to H-NS, is also based on the formation of nucleoprotein filaments. Here, using magnetic tweezers and atomic force microscopy imaging, we demonstrate that MvaT binds to DNA through cooperative polymerization to form a nucleoprotein filament that can further organize DNA into hairpins or higher-order compact structures. Furthermore, we studied DNA binding by MvaT mutants that fail to repress gene expression in P. aeruginosa because they are specifically defective for higher-order oligomer formation. We found that, although the mutants can organize DNA into compact structures, they fail to form rigid nucleoprotein filaments. Our findings suggest that higher-order oligomerization of MvaT is required for the formation of rigid nucleoprotein filaments that silence at least some target genes in P. aeruginosa. Further, our findings suggest that formation of nucleoprotein filaments provide a general structural basis for the gene-silencing H-NS family members.

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