BmrR is a multidrug resistance (MDR) regulator that responds to diverse ligands. To obtain insight into signal recognition, allosteric control, and cooperativity, we used a quantitative in vitro transcription assay to determine the ligand-dependent activation profiles for a diverse set of cations, zwitterions, and uncharged ligands. As for many other biological switch systems, the data are well described by a modified Hill equation. Parameters extracted from curve fits to the data include L50 , RMAX and N. We found that L50 values correlate directly with ΔGBIND values, suggesting that the parameter reflects binding, whereas RMAX and N reflect allosteric control and cooperativity, respectively. Our results suggest unconventional coupling between ligand binding and allosteric control, with weakly interacting ligands exhibiting the highest levels of activation. Such properties are in stark contrast to those often exhibited by biological switch proteins, whereby ligand binding and allostery are tightly coupled, yielding both high selectivity and ultrasensitivity. We propose that weakened coupling, as observed for BmrR, may be important for providing robust activation responses to unrelated ligands. We also propose that other MDR proteins and other polyspecific switch systems will show similar features.
Keywords: allosterism; biosensors; in vitro transcription; molecular recognition; multidrug resistance.
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