A single molecule analysis of H-NS uncouples DNA binding affinity from DNA specificity.
ABSTRACT: Heat-stable nucleoid structuring protein (H-NS) plays a crucial role in gene silencing within prokaryotic cells and is important in pathogenesis. It was reported that H-NS silences nearly 5% of the genome, yet the molecular mechanism of silencing is not well understood. Here, we employed a highly-sensitive single-molecule counting approach, and measured the dissociation constant (KD) of H-NS binding to single DNA binding sites. Charged residues in the linker domain of H-NS provided the most significant contribution to DNA binding affinity. Although H-NS was reported to prefer A/T-rich DNA (a feature of pathogenicity islands) over G/C-rich DNA, the dissociation constants obtained from such sites were nearly identical. Using a hairpin unzipping assay, we were able to uncouple non-specific DNA binding steps from nucleation site binding and subsequent polymerization. We propose a model in which H-NS initially engages with non-specific DNA via reasonably high affinity (?60 nM KD) electrostatic interactions with basic residues in the linker domain. This initial contact enables H-NS to search along the DNA for specific nucleation sites that drive subsequent polymerization and gene silencing.
Project description:The bacterial nucleoid-associated protein H-NS is a DNA-binding protein, playing a major role in gene regulation. To regulate transcription, H-NS silences genes, including horizontally acquired foreign genes. Escherichia coli H-NS is 137 residues long and consists of two discrete and independent structural domains: an N-terminal oligomerization domain and a C-terminal DNA-binding domain, joined by a flexible linker. The N-terminal oligomerization domain is composed of two dimerization sites, dimerization sites 1 and 2, which are both required for H-NS oligomerization, but the exact role of dimerization site 2 in gene silencing is unclear. To this end, we constructed a whole set of single amino acid substitution variants spanning residues 2 to 137. Using a well-characterized H-NS target, the slp promoter of the glutamic acid-dependent acid resistance (GAD) cluster promoters, we screened for any variants defective in gene silencing. Focusing on the function of dimerization site 2, we analyzed four variants, I70C/I70A and L75C/L75A, which all could actively bind DNA but are defective in gene silencing. Atomic force microscopy analysis of DNA-H-NS complexes revealed that all of these four variants formed condensed complexes on DNA, whereas WT H-NS formed rigid and extended nucleoprotein filaments, a conformation required for gene silencing. Single-molecule stretching experiments confirmed that the four variants had lost the ability to form stiffened filaments. We conclude that dimerization site 2 of H-NS plays a key role in the formation of rigid H-NS nucleoprotein filament structures required for gene silencing.
Project description:Nucleoid-associated proteins (NAPs) facilitate chromosome organization in bacteria, but the precise mechanism remains elusive. H-NS is a NAP that also plays a major role in silencing pathogen genes. We used genetics, single-particle tracking in live cells, superresolution microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and molecular dynamics simulations to examine H-NS/DNA interactions in single cells. We discovered a role for the unstructured linker region connecting the N-terminal oligomerization and C-terminal DNA binding domains. In the present work we demonstrate that linker amino acids promote engagement with DNA. In the absence of linker contacts, H-NS binding is significantly reduced, although no change in chromosome compaction is observed. H-NS is not localized to two distinct foci; rather, it is scattered all around the nucleoid. The linker makes DNA contacts that are required for gene silencing, while chromosome compaction does not appear to be an important H-NS function.
Project description:The response regulator SsrB activates expression of genes encoded within and outside of a pathogenicity island (SPI-2), which is required for systemic infection of Salmonella. SsrB binds upstream of the sifA, sifB, and sseJ effector genes and directly regulates transcription. SsrB also relieves gene silencing by the nucleoid protein H-NS. Single molecule experiments with magnetic tweezers demonstrated that SsrB displaces H-NS from DNA only when it is bound in a polymerization (stiffening) mode and not when H-NS is bound to DNA in the bridging mode. Thus, in contrast to previous views, the polymerization binding mode of H-NS is the relevant form for counter-silencing by SsrB. Our results reveal that response regulators can directly activate transcription and also relieve H-NS silencing. This study adds to the repertoire of mechanisms by which NarL/FixJ subfamily members regulate transcription. Because SsrB-dependent promoters are diversely organized, additional mechanisms of transcriptional activation at other loci are likely.
Project description:In enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC), the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) encodes a type 3 secretion system (T3SS) essential for pathogenesis. This pathogenicity island comprises five major operons (LEE1 to LEE5), with the LEE5 operon encoding T3SS effectors involved in the intimate adherence of bacteria to enterocytes. The first operon, LEE1, encodes Ler (LEE-encoded regulator), an H-NS (nucleoid structuring protein) paralog that alleviates the LEE H-NS silencing. We observed that the LEE5 and LEE1 promoters present a bimodal expression pattern, depending on environmental stimuli. One key regulator of bimodal LEE1 and LEE5 expression is ler expression, which fluctuates in response to different growth conditions. Under conditions in vitro considered to be equivalent to nonoptimal conditions for virulence, the opposing regulatory effects of H-NS and Ler can lead to the emergence of two bacterial subpopulations. H-NS and Ler share nucleation binding sites in the LEE5 promoter region, but H-NS binding results in local DNA structural modifications distinct from those generated through Ler binding, at least in vitro Thus, we show how two nucleoid-binding proteins can contribute to the epigenetic regulation of bacterial virulence and lead to opposing bacterial fates. This finding implicates for the first time bacterial-chromatin structural proteins in the bimodal regulation of gene expression.IMPORTANCE Gene expression stochasticity is an emerging phenomenon in microbiology. In certain contexts, gene expression stochasticity can shape bacterial epigenetic regulation. In enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC), the interplay between H-NS (a nucleoid structuring protein) and Ler (an H-NS paralog) is required for bimodal LEE5 and LEE1 expression, leading to the emergence of two bacterial subpopulations (with low and high states of expression). The two proteins share mutual nucleation binding sites in the LEE5 promoter region. In vitro, the binding of H-NS to the LEE5 promoter results in local structural modifications of DNA distinct from those generated through Ler binding. Furthermore, ler expression is a key parameter modulating the variability of the proportions of bacterial subpopulations. Accordingly, modulating the production of Ler into a nonpathogenic E. coli strain reproduces the bimodal expression of LEE5 Finally, this study illustrates how two nucleoid-binding proteins can reshape the epigenetic regulation of bacterial virulence.
Project description:Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) expresses a type III secretion system (T3SS) required for pathogenesis. Regulation of the genes encoding the T3SS is complex; two major regulators control transcription, the silencer H-NS, and the related H-NS-like protein Ler. Our laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular differences that distinguish the anti-silencer Ler from H-NS, and how Ler differentially regulates EPEC virulence genes. Here, we demonstrate that mutated Ler proteins either containing H-NS alpha-helices 1 and 2, missing from Ler, or truncated for the 11 aa C-terminal extension compared with the related H-NS protein, did not appreciably alter Ler function. In contrast, mutating the proline at position 92 of Ler, in the conserved C-terminal DNA binding motif, eliminated Ler activity. Inserting 11 H-NS-specific amino acids, 11 alanines or 6 alanines into the Ler linker severely impaired the ability of Ler to increase LEE5 transcription. To extend our analysis, we constructed six chimeric proteins containing the N terminus, linker region or C terminus of Ler in different combinations with the complementary domains of H-NS, and monitored their in vivo activities. Replacing the Ler linker domain with that of H-NS, or replacing the Ler C-terminal, DNA binding domain with that of H-NS eliminated the ability of Ler to increase transcription at the LEE5 promoter. Thus, the linker and C-terminal domains of Ler and H-NS are not functionally equivalent. Conversely, replacing the H-NS linker region with that of Ler caused increased transcription at LEE5 in a strain deleted for hns. In summary, the interdomain linker specific to Ler is necessary for anti-silencing activity in EPEC.
Project description:The virF gene of Shigella, responsible for triggering the virulence cascade in this pathogenic bacterium, is transcriptionally repressed by the nucleoid-associated protein H-NS. The primary binding sites of H-NS within the promoter region of virF have been detected here by footprinting experiments in the presence of H-NS or its monomeric DNA-binding domain (H-NSctd), which displays the same specificity as intact H-NS. Of the 14 short DNA fragments identified, 10 overlap sequences similar to the H-NS binding motif. The 'fast', 'intermediate' and 'slow' H-NS binding events leading to the formation of the nucleoprotein complex responsible for transcription repression have been determined by time-resolved hydroxyl radical footprinting experiments in the presence of full-length H-NS. We demonstrate that this process is completed in ?1 s and H-NS protections occur simultaneously on site I and site II of the virF promoter. Furthermore, all 'fast' protections have been identified in regions containing predicted H-NS binding motifs, in agreement with the hypothesis that H-NS nucleoprotein complex assembles from a few nucleation sites containing high-affinity binding sequences. Finally, data are presented showing that the 22-bp fragment corresponding to one of the HNS binding sites deviates from canonical B-DNA structure at three TpA steps.
Project description:Chromatin domains are believed to spread via a polymerization-like mechanism in which modification of a given nucleosome recruits a modifying complex, which can then modify the next nucleosome in the polymer. In this study, we carry out genome-wide mapping of the Sir3 component of the Sir silencing complex in budding yeast during a time course of establishment of heterochromatin. Sir3 localization patterns do not support a straightforward model for nucleation and polymerization, instead showing strong but spatially delimited binding to silencers, and weaker and more variable Ume6-dependent binding to novel secondary recruitment sites at the seripauperin (PAU) genes. Genome-wide nucleosome mapping revealed that Sir binding to subtelomeric regions was associated with overpackaging of subtelomeric promoters. Sir3 also bound to a surprising number of euchromatic sites, largely at genes expressed at high levels, and was dynamically recruited to GAL genes upon galactose induction. Together, our results indicate that heterochromatin complex localization cannot simply be explained by nucleation and linear polymerization, and show that heterochromatin complexes associate with highly expressed euchromatic genes in many different organisms.
Project description:H-NS is an abundant DNA-binding protein that has been implicated in the silencing of foreign DNA in several different bacteria. The ability of H-NS dimers to form higher-order oligomers is thought to aid the polymerization of the protein across AT-rich stretches of DNA and facilitate gene silencing. Although the oligomerization of H-NS from enteric bacteria has been the subject of intense investigation, little is known regarding the oligomerization of H-NS family members from bacteria outside of the enterobacteriaceae, many of which share little sequence similarity with their enteric counterparts. Here we show that MvaT, a member of the H-NS family of proteins from Pseudomonas aeruginosa, can form both dimers and higher-order oligomers, and we identify a region within MvaT that mediates higher-order oligomer formation. Using genetic assays we identify mutants of MvaT that are defective for higher-order oligomer formation. We present evidence that these mutants are functionally impaired and exhibit DNA-binding defects because of their inability to form higher-order oligomers. Our findings support a model in which the ability of MvaT to bind efficiently to the DNA depends upon protein-protein interactions between MvaT dimers and suggest that the ability to form higher-order oligomers is a conserved and essential feature of H-NS family members.
Project description:The heat-stable nucleoid structuring (H-NS, also referred to as histone-like nucleoid structuring) protein silences transcription of foreign genes in a variety of Gram-negative bacterial species. To take advantage of the products encoded in foreign genes, bacteria must overcome the silencing effects of H-NS. Because H-NS amounts are believed to remain constant, overcoming gene silencing has largely been ascribed to proteins that outcompete H-NS for binding to AT-rich foreign DNA. However, we report here that the facultative intracellular pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium decreases H-NS amounts 16-fold when inside macrophages. This decrease requires both the protease Lon and the DNA-binding virulence regulator PhoP. The decrease in H-NS abundance reduces H-NS binding to foreign DNA, allowing transcription of foreign genes, including those required for intramacrophage survival. The purified Lon protease degraded free H-NS but not DNA-bound H-NS. By displacing H-NS from DNA, the PhoP protein promoted H-NS proteolysis, thereby de-repressing foreign genes-even those whose regulatory sequences are not bound by PhoP. The uncovered mechanism enables a pathogen to express foreign virulence genes during infection without the need to evolve binding sites for antisilencing proteins at each foreign gene.
Project description:The global transcriptional regulator H-NS selectively silences bacterial genes associated with pathogenicity and responses to environmental insults. Although there is ample evidence that H-NS binds preferentially to DNA containing curved regions, we show here that a major basis for this selectivity is the presence of a conserved sequence motif in H-NS target transcriptons. We further show that there is a strong tendency for the H-NS binding sites to be clustered, both within operons and in genes contained in the pathogenicity-associated islands. In accordance with previously published findings, we show that these motifs occur in AT-rich regions of DNA. On the basis of these observations, we propose that H-NS silences extensive regions of the bacterial chromosome by binding first to nucleating high-affinity sites and then spreading along AT-rich DNA. This spreading would be reinforced by the frequent occurrence of the motif in such regions. Our findings suggest that such an organization enables the silencing of extensive regions of the genetic material, thereby providing a coherent framework that unifies studies on the H-NS protein and a concrete molecular basis for the genetic control of H-NS transcriptional silencing.