Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological Sciences

Document Type



The MarR family of transcriptional regulators comprises a subset of winged helix DNA-binding proteins and includes numerous members that function in environmental surveillance of aromatic compounds. This study presents a biochemical characterization of a novel MarR homolog, HucR (hypothetical uricase regulator), from the DNA damage-resistant eubacterium, Deinococcus radiodurans. Circular dichroism spectroscopy suggests that HucR has ~47% alpha-helix and 10% beta-strand conformation at 25 deg C, and undergoes a transition to a disordered state with Tm = 51.1 ± 0.0 deg C. HucR binds as a homodimer with high sequence-specificity to a single site in its promoter region (hucO) with an apparent Kd = 0.29 ± 0.02 nM. DNaseI and hydroxyl-radical footprinting indicate HucR binding site sizes of ~24 bp and 21 bp, respectively. The binding site contains a pseudopalindromic sequence comprised of 8 bp inverted repeats separated by 2 bp that overlaps predicted promoter elements for hucR and a putative uricase (dr1160). Specific phenolic weak acids, notably uric acid, antagonize HucR-hucO complex formation. In vivo, uric acid increases transcript levels of hucR and dr1160, ~1.6-fold, and stimulates uricase activity 1.5-fold. HucR-hucO complex formation involves protein conformational changes and a decrease in the helical twist of the DNA duplex. Intrinsic fluorescence measurements show that uric acid induces HucR conformational changes, and its apparent Kd = 11.6 ± 3.7 micromolar and Hill coefficient of 0.7 ± 0.1 suggest negative cooperativity. An amino acid substitution in the predicted HucR wing (HucR-R118A) reduces DNA-binding affinity ~5-fold (Kd = 1.60 ± 0.14 nM), whereas a substitution in the predicted recognition helix (HucR-S104A) does not significantly alter DNA-binding affinity (Kd = 0.23 ± 0.03 nM). Each mutation decreases complex stability on the gel, but does not affect sequence-specificity. Intrinsic fluorescence spectra suggest altered conformations of the HucR-variants and altered mechanisms of DNA association. The mutations at HucR positions 118 and 104 also alter a predicted weak ligand-binding site, as indicated by minor changes in uric acid affinities for HucR-R118A and HucR-S104A (Kd = 9.7 ± 3.2 micromolar and 7.4 ± 0.5 micromolar, respectively) and modest attenuations of protein-hucO complex formation in response to uric acid.



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Committee Chair

Anne Grove