Phage dUTPases control transfer of virulence genes by a proto-oncogenic G protein-like mechanism

Mol Cell. 2013 Mar 7;49(5):947-58. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2012.12.013. Epub 2013 Jan 17.


dUTPases (Duts) have emerged as promising regulatory molecules controlling relevant cellular processes. However, the mechanism underlying this regulatory function remains enigmatic. Using staphylococcal pathogenicity island (SaPI) repression as a model, we report here that phage Duts induce the transfer of SaPI-encoded virulence factors by switching between active (dUTP-bound) and inactive (apo state) conformations, a conversion catalyzed by their intrinsic dUTPase activity. Crystallographic and mutagenic analyses demonstrate that binding to dUTP reorders the C-terminal motif V of the phage-encoded Duts, rendering these proteins into the active conformation required for SaPI derepression. By contrast, the conversion to the apo state conformation by hydrolysis of the bound dUTP generates a protein that is unable to induce the SaPI cycle. Because none of the requirements involving Duts in SaPI transfer are exclusive to the phage-encoded proteins, we propose that Duts are widespread cellular regulators acting in a manner analogous to the eukaryotic G proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Genomic Islands / genetics*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Pyrophosphatases / genetics*
  • Pyrophosphatases / metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus / pathogenicity*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Viral Proteins / genetics*
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Viral Proteins
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Pyrophosphatases
  • dUTP pyrophosphatase

Associated data

  • PDB/3ZEZ
  • PDB/3ZF0
  • PDB/3ZF1
  • PDB/3ZF2
  • PDB/3ZF4
  • PDB/3ZF5
  • PDB/3ZF6