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Sci Rep. 2017 Oct 25;7(1):13987. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-14410-z.

Mycobacterium smegmatis PafBC is involved in regulation of DNA damage response.

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University of Zurich, Institute of Medical Microbiology, Zurich, Switzerland.
ETH Zurich, Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics, Zurich, Switzerland.
Functional Genomic Center, University of Zurich/ETH, Zurich, Switzerland.
University of Zurich, Institute of Medical Microbiology, Zurich, Switzerland.


Two genes, pafB and pafC, are organized in an operon with the Pup-ligase gene pafA, which is part of the Pup-proteasome system (PPS) present in mycobacteria and other actinobacteria. The PPS is crucial for Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistance towards reactive nitrogen intermediates (RNI). However, pafB and pafC apparently play only a minor role in RNI resistance. To characterize their function, we generated a pafBC deletion in Mycobacterium smegmatis (Msm). Proteome analysis of the mutant strain revealed decreased cellular levels of various proteins involved in DNA damage repair, including recombinase A (RecA). In agreement with this finding, Msm ΔpafBC displayed increased sensitivity to DNA damaging agents. In mycobacteria two pathways regulate DNA repair genes: the LexA/RecA-dependent SOS response and a predominant pathway that controls gene expression via a LexA/RecA-independent promoter, termed P1. PafB and PafC feature winged helix-turn-helix DNA binding motifs and we demonstrate that together they form a stable heterodimer in vitro, implying a function as a heterodimeric transcriptional regulator. Indeed, P1-driven transcription of recA was decreased in Msm ΔpafBC under standard conditions and induction of recA expression upon DNA damage was strongly impaired. Taken together, our data indicate an important regulatory function of PafBC in the mycobacterial DNA damage response.

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