Structural characterization of stressosome complexes by single-particle cryo-electron microscopy

  • The stressosome is a Mega Dalton macromolecular complex involved in stress adaptation in bacteria. Stressosomes are considered as stress signaling hubs. They are able to perceive a variety of different stress stimuli and transduce them into one single cellular answer, which is the initialization of a transcriptional up-regulation of hundreds of different genes encoding for universal but also very specific stress response proteins. The stressosome of Bacillus subtilis became a prime example for this intriguing stress-triggered transcriptional regulation when its architecture was determined by Single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) in 2008. In Gram-positive Bacillus species, the stressosome complex senses changes in salt concentration, ethanol content, blue-light, heat or acid stress contributing to the general stress response by activation of the alternative σB factor. σB is a transcriptional promoter that initiates the transcription of over 150 general stress genes, e.g., genes that encode osmolyte transporters to counteract osmotic and chill stress. The B. subtilis stressosome (stressosome_Bc) is composed of multiple copies of the 3 proteins: RsbR, RsbS and RsbT. These three Rsb proteins (Regulator of Sigma B) are found clustered in one operon forming the conserved RST module. RsbS and RsbR are scaffold proteins comprising a STAS domain, respectively. Because these domains are dominantly associated to sulfate transporters and anti-sigma antagonist they were named STAS domains, however, they were also identified in other sensor proteins. In the stressosome they form the internal ball-shaped core, while the N-terminal globin-fold sensor domain of RsbR, protruding to the outside, facilitates stress sensing. It is assumed that the stress signal is transduced to the stressosome core via the STAS domain resulting in conformational changes of the core. These changes affect the binding of the third protein, RsbT, a serin-threonine kinase. As a direct consequence of stress sensing the RsbT kinase is released from the complex to start an activation cascade involving the stepwise activation of RsbU, V, W, and X, which are all part of the same operon, and finally of σB. In Bacillus species, several RsbR orthologs were identified varying mainly in the sequence of the N-terminal sensor domains. It is assumed that the stressosome_Bc assembles with a still unknown combination of RsbR orthologs allowing for the broad spectrum of stress stimuli that can be processed in vivo. The pathogenic bacteria Listeria monocytogenes is a close relative of Bacillus. Its potent stress response allows Listeria to survive the harsh environmental conditions during host infection and therefore the stress regulation machinery is contributing heavily to the virulence of this pathogen. In Listeria the Rsb operon is conserved and highly homologous to the Bacillus one. In the frame of this thesis, the in vitro assembly of Listeria innocua stressosomes was shown for the first time by Single-particle (SP) negative stain EM. Moreover, binding of Listeria RsbT to the assembled RsbR-RsbS complex was demonstrated biochemically. Despite the conservation of the RST-module the entire Rsb operon is not conserved in the bacterial kingdom suggesting that signal transduction and regulation of gene expression might occur by very different mechanisms in stressosomes of different species. We have focused here on a stressosome type from the Gram-negative pathogen Vibrio vulnificus that is quite distinct from the Bacillus ones with respect to (1) the missing conservation of the Rsb operon, (2) the role of RsbT, (3) the activation of a different transcriptional promoter, and (4) the absence of additional RsbR orthologs. Interestingly, there is only one RsbR protein encoded in the genome. This one contains a Haem-group in its N-terminal domain being oxygen sensitive. It is assumed that the Vibrio stressosome perceive only oxidative stress and that regulation occurs via a diguanylate cyclase with a GAF domain that synthesizes the second messenger c-di-GMP from GTP. We have started a structure determination of the Vibrio vulnificus stressosome by SP cryo-EM to elucidate the differences in the molecular mechanism of stress sensing in divers stressosome types. A 3D map of the oxidized (activated) Vibrio vulnificus stressosome was determined to 7.6 Å resolution revealing an increased flexibility of both the core and the N-terminal sensor domains in comparison to the Bacillus stressosome suggesting that our structure has trapped for the first time an active state of a stressosome complex. A 3D map of the stressosome core to 7 Å resolution allowed fitting of a homology model of the Vibrio stressosome based on the Bacillus stressosome as template. The conformational changes could be attributed to the entire core, which was confirmed by MD simulations.

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Author:Susann Kaltwasser
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Referee:Volker DötschORCiDGND, Christine ZieglerORCiD
Advisor:Christine Ziegler
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2016/09/14
Year of first Publication:2015
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2016/09/07
Release Date:2016/09/14
Page Number:136
Institutes:Biochemie, Chemie und Pharmazie / Biochemie und Chemie
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht