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1.  Oligomerization of the Response Regulator ComE from Streptococcus mutans Is Affected by Phosphorylation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(5):1127-1135.
We have previously characterized the interactions of the response regulator ComE from Streptococcus mutans and DNA binding sites through DNase I footprinting and electrophoretic mobility shift assay analysis. Since response regulator functions are often affected by their phosphorylation state, we investigated how phosphorylation affects the biochemical function of ComE. Unlike many response regulators, we found that the phosphorylation state of ComE does not likely play a role in DNA binding affinity but rather seems to induce the formation of an oligomeric form of the protein. The role of this oligomerization state for ComE function is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3294772  PMID: 22210762
2.  Characterization of DNA Binding Sites of the ComE Response Regulator from Streptococcus mutans▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(14):3642-3652.
In Streptococcus mutans, both competence and bacteriocin production are controlled by ComC and the ComED two-component signal transduction system. Recent studies of S. mutans suggested that purified ComE binds to two 11-bp direct repeats in the nlmC-comC promoter region, where ComE activates nlmC and represses comC. In this work, quantitative binding studies and DNase I footprinting analysis were performed to calculate the equilibrium dissociation constant and further characterize the binding site of ComE. We found that ComE protects sequences inclusive of both direct repeats, has an equilibrium dissociation constant in the nanomolar range, and binds to these two direct repeats cooperatively. Furthermore, similar direct repeats were found upstream of cslAB, comED, comX, ftf, vicRKX, gtfD, gtfB, gtfC, and gbpB. Quantitative binding studies were performed on each of these sequences and showed that only cslAB has a similar specificity and high affinity for ComE as that seen with the upstream region of comC. A mutational analysis of the binding sequences showed that ComE does not require both repeats to bind DNA with high affinity, suggesting that single site sequences in the genome may be targets for ComE-mediated regulation. Based on the mutational analysis and DNase I footprinting analysis, we propose a consensus ComE binding site, TCBTAAAYSGT.
PMCID: PMC3133340  PMID: 21602345
4.  The response regulator ComE in Streptococcus mutans functions both as a transcription activator of mutacin production and repressor of CSP biosynthesis 
Microbiology (Reading, England)  2007;153(Pt 6):1799-1807.
In Streptococcus pneumoniae, competence and bacteriocin genes are controlled by two two-component systems, ComED and BlpRH, respectively. In Streptococcus mutans, both functions are controlled by the ComED system. Recent studies in S. mutans revealed a potential ComE binding site characterized by two 11 bp direct repeats shared by each of the bacteriocin genes responsive to the competence-stimulating peptide (CSP). Interestingly, this sequence was not found in the upstream region of the CSP structural gene comC. Since comC is suggested to be part of a CSP-responsive and ComE-dependent autoregulatory loop, it was of interest to determine how it was possible that the ComED system could simultaneously regulate bacteriocin expression and natural competence. Using the intergenic region IGS1499, shared by the CSP-responsive bacteriocin nlmC and comC, it was demonstrated that both genes are likely to be regulated by a bifunctional ComE. In a comE null mutant, comC gene expression was increased similarly to a fully induced wild-type. In contrast, nlmC gene expression was nearly abolished. Deletion of ComD exerted a similar effect on both genes to that observed with the comE null mutation. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) with purified ComE revealed specific shift patterns dependent on the presence of one or both direct repeats in the nlmC–comC promoter region. The two direct repeats were also required for the promoter activity of both nlmC and comC. These results suggest that gene regulation of comC in S. mutans is fundamentally different from that reported for S. pneumoniae, which implicates a unique regulatory mechanism that allows the coordination of bacteriocin production with competence development.
PMCID: PMC2062498  PMID: 17526837
5.  Escherichia coli HU protein has a role in the repair of abasic sites in DNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(19):6672-6680.
HU is one of the most abundant DNA binding proteins in Escherichia coli. We find that it binds strongly to DNA containing an abasic (AP) site or tetrahydrofuran (THF) (apparent Kd ≈50 nM). It also possesses an AP lyase activity that cleaves at a deoxyribose but not at a THF residue. The binding and cleavage of an AP site was observed only with the HUαβ heterodimer. Site-specific mutations at K3 and R61 residues led to a change in substrate binding and cleavage. Both K3A(α)K3A(β) and R61A(α)R61A(β) mutant HU showed significant reduction in binding to DNA containing AP site; however, only R61A(α)R61A(β) mutant protein exhibited significant loss in AP lyase activity. Both K3A(α)K3A(β) and R61K(α)R61K(β) showed slight reduction in AP lyase activities. The function of HU protein as an AP lyase was confirmed by the ability of hupA or hupB mutations to further reduce the viability of an E. coli dut(Ts) xth mutant, which generates lethal AP sites at 37°C; the hupA and hupB derivatives, respectively, had a 6-fold and a 150-fold lower survival at 37°C than did the parental strain. These data suggest, therefore, that HU protein plays a significant role in the repair of AP sites in E. coli.
PMCID: PMC2095813  PMID: 17916578
6.  The Streptococcus mutans vicX Gene Product Modulates gtfB/C Expression, Biofilm Formation, Genetic Competence, and Oxidative Stress Tolerance▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;189(4):1451-1458.
Streptococcus mutans is considered one of the primary etiologic agents of dental caries. Previously, we characterized the VicRK two-component signal transduction system, which regulates multiple virulence factors of S. mutans. In this study, we focused on the vicX gene of the vicRKX tricistronic operon. To characterize vicX, we constructed a nonpolar deletion mutation in the vicX coding region in S. mutans UA159. The growth kinetics of the mutant (designated SmuvicX) showed that the doubling time was longer and that there was considerable sensitivity to paraquat-induced oxidative stress. Supplementing a culture of the wild-type UA159 strain with paraquat significantly increased the expression of vicX (P < 0.05, as determined by analysis of variance [ANOVA]), confirming the role of this gene in oxidative stress tolerance in S. mutans. Examination of mutant biofilms revealed architecturally altered cell clusters that were seemingly denser than the wild-type cell clusters. Interestingly, vicX-deficient cells grown in a glucose-supplemented medium exhibited significantly increased glucosyltransferase B/C (gtfB/C) expression compared with the expression in the wild type (P < 0.05, as determined by ANOVA). Moreover, a sucrose-dependent adhesion assay performed using an S. mutans GS5-derived vicX null mutant demonstrated that the adhesiveness of this mutant was enhanced compared with that of the parent strain and isogenic mutants of the parent strain lacking gtfB and/or gtfC. Also, disruption of vicX reduced the genetic transformability of the mutant approximately 10-fold compared with that of the parent strain (P < 0.05, as determined by ANOVA). Collectively, these findings provide insight into important phenotypes controlled by the vicX gene product that can impact S. mutans pathogenicity.
PMCID: PMC1797355  PMID: 17114248
7.  A VicRK Signal Transduction System in Streptococcus mutans Affects gtfBCD, gbpB, and ftf Expression, Biofilm Formation, and Genetic Competence Development 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(12):4064-4076.
Bacteria exposed to transient host environments can elicit adaptive responses by triggering the differential expression of genes via two-component signal transduction systems. This study describes the vicRK signal transduction system in Streptococcus mutans. A vicK (putative histidine kinase) deletion mutant (SmuvicK) was isolated. However, a vicR (putative response regulator) null mutation was apparently lethal, since the only transformants isolated after attempted mutagenesis overexpressed all three genes in the vicRKX operon (Smuvic+). Compared with the wild-type UA159 strain, both mutants formed aberrant biofilms. Moreover, the vicK mutant biofilm formed in sucrose-supplemented medium was easily detachable relative to that of the parent. The rate of total dextran formation by this mutant was remarkably reduced compared to the wild type, whereas it was increased in Smuvic+. Based on real-time PCR, Smuvic+ showed increased gtfBCD, gbpB, and ftf expression, while a recombinant VicR fusion protein was shown to bind the promoter regions of the gtfB, gtfC, and ftf genes. Also, transformation efficiency in the presence or absence of the S. mutans competence-stimulating peptide was altered for the vic mutants. In vivo studies conducted using SmuvicK in a specific-pathogen-free rat model resulted in significantly increased smooth-surface dental plaque (Pearson-Filon statistic [PF], <0.001). While the absence of vicK did not alter the incidence of caries, a significant reduction in SmuvicK CFU counts was observed in plaque samples relative to that of the parent (PF, <0.001). Taken together, these findings support involvement of the vicRK signal transduction system in regulating several important physiological processes in S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC1151735  PMID: 15937169

Results 1-7 (7)