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Nitric oxide (NO) has diverse roles in intercellular communication and (at higher levels) in immune-mediated cell killing. NO reacts with many cellular targets, with cell-killing effects correlated to inactivation of key enzymes through nitrosylation of their iron-sulfur centers. SoxR protein, a redox-sensitive transcription activator dependent on the oxidation state of its binuclear iron-sulfur ([2Fe-2S]) centers, is also activated in Escherichia coli on exposure to macrophage-generated NO. We show here that SoxR activation by NO occurs through direct modification of the [2Fe-2S] centers to form protein-bound dinitrosyl-iron-dithiol adducts, which we have observed both in intact bacterial cells and in purified SoxR after NO treatment. Functional activation through nitrosylation of iron-sulfur centers contrasts with the inactivation typically caused by this modification. Purified, nitrosylated SoxR has transcriptional activity similar to that of oxidized SoxR and is relatively stable. In contrast, nitrosylated SoxR is short-lived in intact cells, indicative of mechanisms that actively dispose of nitrosylated iron-sulfur centers.

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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