Glutathione-mediated destabilization in vitro of [2Fe-2S] centers in the SoxR regulatory protein

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SoxR is a transcription factor that governs a global defense against the oxidative stress caused by nitric oxide or excess superoxide in Escherichia coli. SoxR is a homodimer containing a pair of [2Fe-2S] clusters essential for its transcriptional activity, and changes in the stability of these metal centers could contribute to the activation or inactivation of SoxR in vivo. Herein we show that reduced glutathione (GSH) in aerobic solution disrupts the SoxR [2Fe-2S] clusters, releasing Fe from the protein and eliminating SoxR transcriptional activity. This disassembly process evidently involves oxygen-derived free radicals. The loss of [2Fe-2S] clusters does not occur in anaerobic solution and is blocked in aerobic solution by the addition of superoxide dismutase and catalase. Although H2O2 or xanthine oxidase and hypoxanthine (to generate superoxide) were insufficient on their own to cause [2Fe-2S] cluster loss, they did accelerate the rate of disassembly after GSH addition. Oxidized GSH alone was ineffective in disrupting the clusters, but the rate of [2Fe-2S] cluster disassembly was maximal when reduced and oxidized GSH were present at a ratio of ≃1:3, which suggests the critical involvement of a GSH-based free radical in the disassembly process. Such a reaction might occur in vivo: we found that the induction by paraquat of SoxR-dependent soxS transcription was much higher in a GSH-deficient E. coli strain than in its GSH-containing parent. The results imply that GSH may play a significant role during the deactivation process of SoxR in vivo. Ironically, superoxide production seems both to activate SoxR and, in the GSH-dependent disassembly process, to switch off this transcription factor.

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

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