Mycobacterium tuberculosis DevR/DosR Dormancy Regulator Activation Mechanism

Dispensability of Phosphorylation, Cooperativity and Essentiality of α10 Helix

Citation: Sharma S, Tyagi JS (2016) Mycobacterium tuberculosis DevR/DosR Dormancy Regulator Activation Mechanism: Dispensability of Phosphorylation, Cooperativity and Essentiality of α10 Helix. PLoS ONE 11(8): e0160723. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0160723
Published: August 4, 2016

Abstract
TB_CultureDevR/DosR is a well-characterized regulator in Mycobacterium tuberculosis which is implicated in various processes ranging from dormancy/persistence to drug tolerance. DevR induces the expression of an ~48-gene dormancy regulon in response to gaseous stresses, including hypoxia. Strains of the Beijing lineage constitutively express this regulon, which may confer upon them a significant advantage, since they would be ‘pre-adapted’ to the environmental stresses that predominate during infection. Aerobic DevR regulon expression in laboratory-manipulated overexpression strains is also reported. In both instances, the need for an inducing signal is bypassed. While a phosphorylation-mediated conformational change in DevR was proposed as the activation mechanism under hypoxia, the mechanism underlying constitutive expression is not understood. Because DevR is implicated in bacterial dormancy/persistence and is a promising drug target, it is relevant to resolve the mechanistic puzzle of hypoxic activation on one hand and constitutive expression under ‘non-inducing’ conditions on the other. Here, an overexpression strategy was employed to elucidate the DevR activation mechanism. Using a panel of kinase and transcription factor mutants, we establish that DevR, upon overexpression, circumvents DevS/DosT sensor kinase-mediated or small molecule phosphodonor-dependent activation, and also cooperativity-mediated effects, which are key aspects of hypoxic activation mechanism. However, overexpression failed to rescue the defect of C-terminal-truncated DevR lacking the α10 helix, establishing the α10 helix as an indispensable component of DevR activation mechanism. We propose that aerobic overexpression of DevR likely increases the concentration of α10 helix-mediated active dimer species to above the threshold level, as during hypoxia, and enables regulon expression. This advance in the understanding of DevR activation mechanism clarifies a long standing question as to the mechanism of DevR overexpression-mediated induction of the regulon in the absence of the normal environmental cue and establishes the α10 helix as an universal and pivotal targeting interface for DevR inhibitor development.

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