Redox Sensing by PecS from the Plant Pathogen Pectobacterium atrosepticum and Its Effect on Gene Expression and the Conformation of PecS-Bound Promoter DNA

Document Type


Publication Date



© 2019 American Chemical Society. The plant pathogen Pectobacterium atrosepticum encounters a stressful environment when it colonizes the plant apoplast. Chief among the stressors are the reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are produced by the host as a first line of defense. Bacterial transcription factors in turn use these signals as cues to upregulate expression of virulence-associated genes. We have previously shown that the transcription factor PecS from P. atrosepticum binds the promoters that drive expression of pecS and pecM, which encodes an efflux pump, to repress gene expression. We show here that addition of oxidant relieves repression in vivo and in vitro. While reduced PecS distorts promoter DNA on binding, oxidized PecS does not, as evidenced by DNaseI footprinting. PecS oxidation is reversible, as shown by an oxidant-dependent quenching of the intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence that is completely reversed upon addition of a reducing agent. Cysteine 45 positioned at the PecS dimer interface is the redox sensor. Reduced PecS-C45A causes less DNA distortion on binding compared to wild-type PecS; addition of an oxidant has no effect on binding, and PecS-C45A cannot repress gene expression. Our data suggest that reduced PecS distorts its cognate DNA on binding, perhaps inducing a conformation in which promoter elements are suboptimally aligned for RNA polymerase binding, resulting in transcriptional repression. In contrast, oxidized PecS binds promoter DNA such that RNA polymerase may successfully compete with PecS for binding, allowing gene expression. This mode of regulation would facilitate induction of the PecS regulon when the bacteria encounter host-derived ROS in the plant apoplast.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)


First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.