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J Bacteriol. 2012 Dec;194(24):6771-81. doi: 10.1128/JB.01494-12. Epub 2012 Oct 5.

Biophysical and bioinformatic analyses implicate the Treponema pallidum Tp34 lipoprotein (Tp0971) in transition metal homeostasis.

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  • 1Department of Biophysics, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA.

Abstract

Metal ion homeostasis is a critical function of many integral and peripheral membrane proteins. The genome of the etiologic agent of syphilis, Treponema pallidum, is compact and devoid of many metabolic enzyme genes. Nevertheless, it harbors genes coding for homologs of several enzymes that typically require either iron or zinc. The product of the tp0971 gene of T. pallidum, designated Tp34, is a periplasmic lipoprotein that is thought to be tethered to the inner membrane of this organism. Previous work on a water-soluble (nonacylated) recombinant version of Tp34 established that this protein binds to Zn(2+), which, like other transition metal ions, stabilizes the dimeric form of the protein. In this study, we employed analytical ultracentrifugation to establish that four transition metal ions (Ni(2+), Co(2+), Cu(2+), and Zn(2+)) readily induce the dimerization of Tp34; Cu(2+) (50% effective concentration [EC(50)] = 1.7 μM) and Zn(2+) (EC(50) = 6.2 μM) were the most efficacious of these ions. Mutations of the crystallographically identified metal-binding residues hindered the ability of Tp34 to dimerize. X-ray crystallography performed on crystals of Tp34 that had been incubated with metal ions indicated that the binding site could accommodate the metals examined. The findings presented herein, coupled with bioinformatic analyses of related proteins, point to Tp34's likely role in metal ion homeostasis in T. pallidum.

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