The complex formed between Tet repressor and tetracycline-Mg2+ reveals mechanism of antibiotic resistance

J Mol Biol. 1995 Mar 24;247(2):260-80. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.1994.0138.


In recent years Gram-negative bacteria have developed several resistance mechanisms against the broad-spectrum antibiotic tetracycline (Tc). The most abundant mechanism involves a membrane-associated protein (TetA) that exports the antibiotic out of the bacterial cell before it can attach to the ribosomes and inhibit polypeptide elongation. The expression of the TetA protein is regulated by the Tet repressor (TetR). It occurs as a homodimer and binds with two alpha-helix-turn-alpha-helix motifs (HTH) to two tandemly orientated DNA operators, thereby blocking the expression of the associated genes, one encoding for TetA and the other for TetR. If Tc in complex with a divalent cation binds to TetR, a conformational change occurs and the induced TetR is then unable to bind to DNA. TetR of class D, TEtRD, was cocrystallized with tetracycline (7HTc) and Mg2+ in space group I4(1)22 and studied by X-ray diffraction. One TetRD monomer occupies the crystal asymmetric unit, and the dimer is formed by a crystallographic 2-fold rotation. The crystal structure was determined by multiple isomorphous replacement at 2.5 A resolution, and on this basis the structure of the nearly isomorphous complex with 7-chlorotetracycline, TetRD/(Mg 7CITc)+, has been refined to an R-factor of 18.3% using all reflections to 2.1 A resolution. TetRD folds into ten alpha-helices with connecting turns and loops. The N-terminal three alpha-helices of the repressor form the DNA-binding domain, including the HTH with an inverse orientation compared with HTH in other DNA-binding proteins. The distance of 39 A between the two recognition helices explains the inability of the induced TetR to bind to B-form DNA. The core of the protein is formed by helices alpha 5 to alpha 10. It is responsible for dimerization and contains, for each monomer, a binding pocket that accommodates Tc in the presence of a divalent cation. The structure of the TetRD/(Mg 7CITc)+ complex reveals the octahedral coordination of Mg2+ by Tc (chelating O-11, and O-12), His100 N epsilon and by three water molecules; in addition there is an extended network of hydrogen bonding and van der Waals interactions formed between 7CITc and TetR. The detailed view of the Tc-binding pocket and the interactions between the antibiotic and the repressor offers the first solid basis for rational tetracycline design, with the aim of circumventing resistance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins*
  • Base Sequence
  • Chlortetracycline / chemistry*
  • Chlortetracycline / metabolism
  • Chlortetracycline / pharmacology
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Magnesium / chemistry*
  • Magnesium / metabolism
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Repressor Proteins / chemistry*
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tetracycline Resistance*
  • Viral Proteins
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins
  • Water / chemistry


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • TRPR protein, E coli
  • Viral Proteins
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins
  • phage repressor proteins
  • tetracycline resistance-encoding transposon repressor protein
  • Water
  • Magnesium
  • Chlortetracycline

Associated data

  • PDB/1TRT