Tetramerization of the LexA repressor in solution: implications for gene regulation of the E.coli SOS system at acidic pH.

Research paper by Francisco J R FJ Sousa, Luis M T R LM Lima, Ana B F AB Pacheco, Cristiano L P CL Oliveira, Iris I Torriani, Darcy F DF Almeida, Debora D Foguel, Jerson L JL Silva, Ronaldo R Mohana-Borges

Indexed on: 17 May '06Published on: 17 May '06Published in: Journal of Molecular Biology


Structural changes on LexA repressor promoted by acidic pH have been investigated. Intense protein aggregation occurred around pH 4.0 but was not detected at pH values lower than pH 3.5. The center of spectral mass of the Trp increased 400 cm(-1) at pH 2.5 relatively to pH 7.2, an indication that LexA has undergone structural reorganization but not denaturation. The Trp fluorescence polarization of LexA at pH 2.5 indicated that its hydrodynamic volume was larger than its dimer at pH 7.2. 4,4'-Dianilino-1,1'-binaphthyl-5,5'- disulfonic acid (bis-ANS) experiments suggested that the residues in the hydrophobic clefts already present at the LexA structure at neutral pH had higher affinity to it at pH 2.5. A 100 kDa band corresponding to a tetramer was obtained when LexA was subject to pore-limiting native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis at this pH. The existence of this tetrameric state was also confirmed by small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) analysis at pH 2.5. 1D 1H NMR experiments suggested that it was composed of a mixture of folded and unfolded regions. Although 14,000-fold less stable than the dimeric LexA, it showed a tetramer-monomer dissociation at pH 2.5 from the hydrostatic pressure and urea curves. Albeit with half of the affinity obtained at pH 7.2 (Kaff of 170 nM), tetrameric LexA remained capable of binding recA operator sequence at pH 2.5. Moreover, different from the absence of binding to the negative control polyGC at neutral pH, LexA bound to this sequence with a Kaff value of 1415 nM at pH 2.5. A binding stoichiometry experiment at both pH 7.2 and pH 2.5 showed a [monomeric LexA]/[recA operator] ratio of 2:1. These results are discussed in relation to the activation of the Escherichia coli SOS regulon in response to environmental conditions resulting in acidic intracellular pH. Furthermore, oligomerization of LexA is proposed to be a possible regulation mechanism of this regulon.