The GvpE protein involved in the regulation of gas vesicles synthesis in halophilic archaea has been identified as the transcriptional activator for the promoter located upstream of the gvpA gene encoding the major gas vesicle structural protein GvpA. A closer inspection of the GvpE protein sequence revealed that GvpE resembles basic leucine-zipper proteins typically involved in the gene regulation of eukarya. A molecular modelling study of the C-terminal part implied a cluster of basic amino acid residues constituting the DNA-binding site (DNAB) followed by an amphiphilic helix, suitable for the formation of a leucine-zipper structure within a GvpE dimer. The model of a GvpE dimer docked onto DNA indicated that the side-chains of the basic residues could perfectly interact with the negatively charged phosphate groups of the DNA backbone. Substitution of three basic amino acid residues of this putative DNAB by alanine and/or glutamate generated mutated GvpE proteins. None of these was able to activate the c-gvpA promoter in vivo, indicating that these basic residues are required for GvpE activity. This identification of an archaeal gene regulator displaying similarity to eukaryal regulatory proteins implies that the basic transcription machinery of eukarya and archaea are closely related, and that the regulatory proteins have evolved according to common principles.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press Limited.