Bacteria have developed numerous protection strategies to ensure survival in harsh environments, with perhaps the most robust method being the formation of a protective biofilm. In biofilms, bacterial cells are embedded within a matrix that is composed of a complex mixture of polysaccharides, proteins, and DNA. The gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis has become a model organism for studying regulatory networks directing biofilm formation. The phenotypic transition from a planktonic to biofilm state is regulated by the activity of the transcriptional repressor, SinR, and its inactivation by its primary antagonist, SinI. In this work, we present the first full-length structural model of tetrameric SinR using a hybrid approach combining high-resolution solution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), chemical cross-linking, mass spectrometry, and molecular docking. We also present the solution NMR structure of the antagonist SinI dimer and probe the mechanism behind the SinR-SinI interaction using a combination of biochemical and biophysical techniques. As a result of these findings, we propose that SinI utilizes a residue replacement mechanism to block SinR multimerization, resulting in diminished DNA binding and concomitant decreased repressor activity. Finally, we provide an evidence-based mechanism that confirms how disruption of the SinR tetramer by SinI regulates gene expression.
Keywords: Bacillus subtilis; Biofilms; NMR solution structure; Transcriptional regulation.
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