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Members of the multiple antibiotic resistance regulator (MarR) family often regulate gene activity by responding to a specific ligand. In the absence of ligand, most MarR proteins function as repressors, while ligand binding causes attenuated DNA binding and therefore increased gene expression. Previously, we have shown that urate is a ligand for MftR (major facilitator transport regulator), which is encoded by the soil bacterium Burkholderia thailandensis. We show here that both mftR and the divergently oriented gene mftP encoding a major facilitator transport protein are upregulated in the presence of urate. MftR binds two cognate sites in the mftR-mftP intergenic region with equivalent affinity and sensitivity to urate. Mutagenesis of four conserved residues previously reported to be involved in urate binding to Deinococcus radiodurans HucR and Rhizobium radiobacter PecS significantly reduced protein stability and DNA binding affinity but not ligand binding. These data suggest that residues equivalent to those implicated in ligand binding to HucR and PecS serve structural roles and that MftR relies on distinct residues for ligand binding. MftR exhibits a two-step melting transition suggesting independent unfolding of the dimerization and DNA-binding regions; urate binding or mutations in the predicted ligand-binding sites result in one-step unfolding transitions. We suggest that MftR binds the ligand in a cleft between the DNA-binding lobes and the dimer interface but that the mechanism of ligand-mediated attenuation of DNA binding differs from that proposed for other urate-responsive MarR homologues. Since DNA binding by MftR is attenuated at 37 °C, our data also suggest that MftR responds to both ligand and a thermal upshift by attenuated DNA binding and upregulation of the genes under its control. © 2014 American Chemical Society.

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