A Three-protein Charge Zipper Stabilizes a Complex Modulating Bacterial Gene Silencing [Microbiology]

June 17th, 2015 by Cordeiro, T. N., Garcia, J., Bernado, P., Millet, O., Pons, M.

The Hha/YmoA nucleoid-associated proteins help selectively silencing horizontally acquired genetic material, including pathogenicity and antibiotic resistance genes, and their maintenance in the absence of selective pressure. Members of the Hha family contribute to gene silencing by binding to the N-terminal dimerization domain of H-NS and modifying its selectivity. Hha-like proteins and the H-NS N-terminal domain are unusually rich in charged residues and their interaction is mostly electrostatic driven but, nonetheless, highly selective. The NMR-based structural model of the complex between Hha/YmoA and the H-NS N-terminal dimerization domain reveals that the origin of the selectivity is the formation of a three-protein charge zipper with interdigitated complementary charged residues from Hha and the two units of the H-NS dimer. The free form of YmoA show collective microsecond-millisecond dynamics that can by measured by NMR relaxation dispersion experiments and show a linear dependency with the salt concentration. The number of residues sensing the collective dynamics and the population of the minor form increased in the presence of H-NS. Additionally, a single residue mutation in YmoA (D43N) abolished H-NS binding and the dynamics of the apo-form, suggesting dynamics and binding are functionally related.