The transcriptional repressor Rex is a sensor of the intracellular NADH/NAD(+) redox state through direct binding of NADH or NAD(+). Homodimeric Rex protein from Thermus aquaticus (T-Rex) and Bacillus subtilis (B-Rex) exists in several different conformations. In both organisms, Rex in complex with NADH has the DNA binding domains packed together at the dimer interface, whereas in the apo form of B-Rex the linkers connecting these domains to the core are flexible. The crystal structures of the apo forms of B-Rex and a mutated variant of T-Rex are radically different. We describe the solution structures of B-Rex in complex with NAD(+) or NADH and in its apo form, on the basis of small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) measurements. This study addresses to what extent the unusual orientation of the DNA recognition domains of the crystal structure of apo B-Rex is due to stabilization by crystal packing. Low-resolution ab initio solution structures were obtained for apo B-Rex, B-Rex:NADH and B-Rex:NAD(+). Models giving a more detailed picture of these three solution structures were obtained also by rigid body fitting of the crystallographic domains. The SAXS data confirm the elongated and flexible nature of apo-B-Rex and the existence of two distinct and more rigid conformations for the complexes with NADH and NAD(+). The models emerging from this study indicate a reaction mechanism for B-Rex in which the recognition domains are rotated upon binding to NADH.
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