Phosphorylation-independent dimer-dimer interactions by the enhancer-binding activator NtrC of Escherichia coli: A third function for the C-terminal domain

Xiaofeng F. Yang, Youngran Ji, Barbara L. Schneider, Larry Reitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


The response regulator NtrC transcriptionally activates genes of the nitrogen-regulated (Ntr) response. Phosphorylation of its N-terminal receiver domain stimulates an essential oligomerization of the central domain. Deletion of the central domain reduces, but does not eliminate, intermolecular interactions as assessed by cooperative binding to DNA. To analyze the structural determinants and function of this central domain-independent as well as phosphorylation-independent oligomerization, we randomly mutagenized DNA coding for an NtrC without its central domain and isolated strains containing NtrC with defective phosphorylation-independent cooperative binding. The alterations were primarily localized to helix B of the C-terminal domain. Site-specific mutagenesis that altered surface residues of helix B confirmed this localization. The purified NtrC variants, with or without the central domain, were specifically defective in phosphorylation-independent cooperative DNA binding and had little defect, if any, on other functions, such as non-cooperative DNA binding. We propose that this region forms an oligomerization interface. Full-length NtrC variants did not efficiently repress the glnA-ntrBC operon when NtrC was not phosphorylated, which suggests that phosphorylation-independent cooperative binding sets the basal level for glutamine synthetase and the regulators of the Ntr response. The NtrC variants in these cells generally, but not always, supported wild-type growth in nitrogen-limited media and wild-type activation of a variety of Ntr genes. We discuss the differences and similarities between the NtrC C-terminal domain and the homologous Fis, which is also capable of intermolecular interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36708-36714
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number35
StatePublished - Aug 27 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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