How do cells move one of the largest and most hydrophilic biological molecules across hydrophobic membrane barriers? This is the broad question our laboratory seeks to understand. In bacteria alone, this process is involved in the transfer of antibiotic resistance, spore formation, and proper chromosome segregation during growth. Yet, very little is known about the molecular mechanism of DNA translocation across membranes in any system, as tools to study the mechanism of DNA transporters in their biological context at the membrane have been lacking. We combine in vitro and in vivo biochemistry, microscopy, microbiology and molecular biology to study these DNA transport complexes.
DNA transport during sporulation
Proper chromosome segregation is essential for successful cell division in all organisms. Interestingly, bacterial cells often form a division septum prior to completion of DNA segregation. Sporulating Bacillus subtilis cells provide an extreme example of this phenomenon in that they must transport more than 3 Megabases of a chromosome across a division septum and into the small cellular compartment that will become the spore. SpoIIIE, a member of a large family of bacterial and archeal membrane-bound ATPases (FtsK/SpoIIIE), is required for active transport of the chromosomal DNA at the division septum during sporulation. Using quantitative fluorescence microscopy, and in vivo DNA transport assays to study the oligomeric state and transport properties of the SpoIIIE complex led to the very surprising and novel result that the DNA is transported across two membranes during sporulation. These data predict a new model for DNA transport in which the transmembrane segments of the transporter form linked DNA-conducting channels across the two lipid bilayers of the septum. This system provides a unique opportunity to tackle this interesting phenomenon using complimentary in vivo and in vitro approaches and to address issues which have significant implications for our understanding of how cells efficiently move of large nucleic acids across membranes.
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SpoIIIE directionally pumps DNA across membranes during Bacillus subtilis sporulation and vegetative growth. The sequence-reading domain (γ domain) is required for directional DNA transport, and its deletion severely impairs sporulation. We selected suppressors of the spoIIIEΔγ sporulation defect. Unexpectedly, many suppressors were intragenic missense mutants, and some restore sporulation to near-wild-type levels. The mutant proteins are likely not more abundant, faster at translocating DNA, or sequence-sensitive, and rescue does not involve the SpoIIIE homolog SftA. Some mutants behave differently when co-expressed with spoIIIEΔγ, consistent with the idea that some, but not all, variants may form mixed oligomers. In full-length spoIIIE, these mutations do not affect sporulation, and yet the corresponding residues are rarely found in other SpoIIIE/FtsK family members. The suppressors do not rescue chromosome translocation defects during vegetative growth, indicating that the role of the γ domain cannot be fully replaced by these mutations. We present two models consistent with our findings: that the suppressors commit to transport in one arbitrarily-determined direction or delay spore development. It is surprising that missense mutations somehow rescue loss of an entire domain with a complex function, and this raises new questions about the mechanism by which SpoIIIE pumps DNA and the roles SpoIIIE plays in vivo.
Among protein secretion systems, there are specialized ATPases that serve different functions such as substrate recognition, substrate unfolding, and assembly of the secretory machinery. ESX (early secretory antigen target 6 kDa secretion) protein secretion systems require FtsK/SpoIIIE family ATPases but the specific function of these ATPases is poorly understood. The ATPases of ESX secretion systems have a unique domain architecture among proteins of the FtsK/SpoIIIE family. All well-studied FtsK family ATPases to date have one ATPase domain and oligomerize to form a functional molecular machine, most commonly a hexameric ring. In contrast, the ESX ATPases have three ATPase domains, encoded either by a single gene or by two operonic genes. It is currently unknown which of the ATPase domains is catalytically functional and whether each domain plays the same or a different function. Here we focus on the ATPases of two ESX systems, the ESX-1 system of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the yuk system of Bacillus subtilis. We show that ATP hydrolysis by the ESX ATPase is required for secretion, suggesting that this enzyme at least partly fuels protein translocation. We further show that individual ATPase domains play distinct roles in substrate translocation and complex formation. Comparing the single-chain and split ESX ATPases, we reveal differences in the requirements of these unique secretory ATPases.
Many bacteria take up DNA from their environment as part of the process of natural transformation. DNA uptake allows microorganisms to gain genetic diversity and can lead to the spread of antibiotic resistance or virulence genes within a microbial population. Development of genetic competence (Com) in Bacillus subtilis is a highly regulated process that culminates in expression of several late competence genes and formation of the DNA uptake apparatus. The late competence operon comF encodes a small protein of unknown function, ComFB. To gain insight into the function of ComFB, we determined its three-dimensional structure via X-ray crystallography. ComFB is a dimer, and each subunit consists of four α-helices connected by short loops and one extended β-strand-like stretch. Each subunit contains one zinc-binding site formed by four cysteines, which are unusually spaced in the primary sequence. Using structure- and bioinformatics-guided substitutions we analyzed the intersubunit interface of the ComFB dimer. Based on these analyses, we conclude that ComFB is an obligate dimer. We also characterized ComFB in vivo and found that this protein is produced in competent cells and is localized to the cytosol. Consistent with previous reports, we showed that deletion of ComFB does not affect DNA uptake function. Combining our results, we conclude that ComFB is unlikely to be a part of the DNA uptake machinery under tested conditions and instead may have a regulatory function.
Over a decade of studies have tackled the question of how FtsK/SpoIIIE translocases establish and maintain directional DNA translocation during chromosome segregation in bacteria. FtsK/SpoIIIE translocases move DNA in a highly processive, directional manner, where directionality is facilitated by sequences on the substrate DNA molecules that are being transported. In recent years, structural, biochemical, single-molecule and high-resolution microscopic studies have provided new insight into the mechanistic details of directional DNA segregation. Out of this body of work, a series of models have emerged and, ultimately, yielded two seemingly opposing models: the loading model and the target search model. We review these recent mechanistic insights into directional DNA movement and discuss the data that may serve to unite these suggested models, as well as propose future directions that may ultimately solve the debate.
SpoIIIE/FtsK ATPases are central players in bacterial chromosome segregation. It remains unclear how these DNA translocases harness chemical energy (ATP turnover) to perform mechanical work (DNA movement). Bacillus subtilis sporulation provides a dramatic example of intercompartmental DNA transport, in which SpoIIIE moves 70% of the chromosome across the division plane. To understand the mechanistic requirements for DNA translocation, we investigated the DNA translocation defect of a classical nontranslocating allele, spoIIIE36. We found that the translocation phenotype is caused by a single substitution, a change of valine to methionine at position 429 (V429M), within the motor of SpoIIIE. This substitution is located at the base of a hinge between the RecA-like β domain and the α domain, which is a domain unique to the SpoIIIE/FtsK family and currently has no known function. V429M interferes with both protein-DNA interactions and oligomer assembly. These mechanistic defects disrupt coordination between ATP turnover and DNA interaction, effectively uncoupling ATP hydrolysis from DNA movement. Our data provide the first functional evidence for the importance of the hinge in DNA translocation.
Protein secretion typically involves translocation of unfolded polypeptides or transport of monomeric folded proteins. Here we provide, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for secretion of an intact multimeric complex requiring a signal formed by both members of the complex. Using systematic mutagenesis of a substrate involved in early secretory antigen 6 kDa (ESX) secretion in Bacillus subtilis, we demonstrate that export of the substrate requires two independent motifs. Using mixed dimers, we show that these motifs must form a composite secretion signal in which one motif is contributed by each subunit of the dimer. Finally, through targeted crosslinking we show that the dimer formed in the cell is likely secreted as a single unit. We discuss implications of this substrate recognition mechanism for the biogenesis and quality control of secretion substrates and describe its likely conservation across ESX systems.
Esat-6 protein secretion systems (ESX or Ess) are required for the virulence of several human pathogens, most notably Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Staphylococcus aureus. These secretion systems are defined by a conserved FtsK/SpoIIIE family ATPase and one or more WXG100 family secreted substrates. Gene clusters coding for ESX systems have been identified amongst many organisms including the highly tractable model system, Bacillus subtilis. In this study, we demonstrate that the B. subtilis yuk/yue locus codes for a nonessential ESX secretion system. We develop a functional secretion assay to demonstrate that each of the locus gene products is specifically required for secretion of the WXG100 virulence factor homolog, YukE. We then employ an unbiased approach to search for additional secreted substrates. By quantitative profiling of culture supernatants, we find that YukE may be the sole substrate that depends on the FtsK/SpoIIIE family ATPase for secretion. We discuss potential functional implications for secretion of a unique substrate.
Bacterial chromosome segregation utilizes highly conserved directional translocases of the SpoIIIE/FtsK family. These proteins employ an accessory DNA-binding domain (γ) to dictate directionality of DNA transport. It remains unclear how the interaction of γ with specific recognition sequences coordinates directional DNA translocation. We demonstrate that the γ domain of SpoIIIE inhibits ATPase activity of the motor domain in the absence of DNA but stimulates ATPase activity through sequence-specific DNA recognition. Furthermore, we observe that communication between γ subunits is necessary for both regulatory roles. Consistent with these findings, the γ domain is necessary for robust DNA transport along the length of the chromosome in vivo. Together, our data reveal that directional activation involves allosteric regulation of ATP turnover through coordinated action of γ domains. Thus, we propose a coordinated stimulation model in which γ-γ communication is required to translate DNA sequence information from each γ to its respective motor domain.
How bacteria catalyze membrane fission during growth and differentiation is an outstanding question in prokaryotic cell biology. Here, we describe a protein (FisB, for fission protein B) that mediates membrane fission during the morphological process of spore formation in Bacillus subtilis. Sporulating cells divide asymmetrically, generating a large mother cell and smaller forespore. After division, the mother cell membranes migrate around the forespore in a phagocytic-like process called engulfment. Membrane fission releases the forespore into the mother cell cytoplasm. Cells lacking FisB are severely and specifically impaired in the fission reaction. Moreover, GFP-FisB forms dynamic foci that become immobilized at the site of fission. Purified FisB catalyzes lipid mixing in vitro and is only required in one of the fusing membranes, suggesting that FisB-lipid interactions drive membrane remodeling. Consistent with this idea, the extracytoplasmic domain of FisB binds with remarkable specificity to cardiolipin, a lipid enriched in the engulfing membranes and regions of negative curvature. We propose that membrane topology at the final stage of engulfment and FisB-cardiolipin interactions ensure that the mother cell membranes are severed at the right time and place. The unique properties of FisB set it apart from the known fission machineries in eukaryotes, suggesting that it represents a new class of fission proteins.
DNA pumps play important roles in bacteria during cell division and during the transfer of genetic material by conjugation and transformation. The FtsK/SpoIIIE proteins carry out the translocation of double-stranded DNA to ensure complete chromosome segregation during cell division. In contrast, the complex molecular machines that mediate conjugation and genetic transformation drive the transport of single stranded DNA. The transformation machine also processes this internalized DNA and mediates its recombination with the resident chromosome during and after uptake, whereas the conjugation apparatus processes DNA before transfer. This article reviews these three types of DNA pumps, with attention to what is understood of their molecular mechanisms, their energetics and their cellular localizations.
The FtsK/SpoIIIE family of DNA transporters are responsible for translocating missegregated chromosomes after the completion of cell division. An extreme example of this post-cytokinetic DNA segregation occurs during spore formation in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, where SpoIIIE pumps three-quarters of the chromosome (>3 megabases) into one of the two daughter cells. Here, we investigate the fate of the proteins associated with the translocated DNA. Taking advantage of several unique features of Bacillus sporulation, we demonstrate that RNA polymerase, transcription factors, and chromosome remodeling proteins are stripped off the DNA during translocation of the chromosome into the forespore compartment. Furthermore, we show that in vitro the soluble ATPase domain of SpoIIIE can displace RNA polymerase bound to DNA, suggesting that SpoIIIE alone is capable of this wire-stripping activity. Our data suggest that the bulk of the forespore chromosome is translocated naked into the forespore compartment. We propose that the translocation-stripping activity of SpoIIIE plays a key role in reprogramming developmental gene expression in the forespore.
The FtsK/SpoIIIE family of ATP-dependent DNA transporters mediates proper chromosome segregation in dividing bacteria. In sporulating Bacillus subtilis cells, SpoIIIE translocates much of the circular chromosome from the mother cell into the forespore, but the molecular mechanism remains unclear. Using a new assay to monitor DNA transport, we demonstrate that the two arms of the chromosome are simultaneously pumped into the forespore. Up to 70 molecules of SpoIIIE are recruited to the site of DNA translocation and assemble into complexes that could contain 12 subunits. The fusion of the septal membranes during cytokinesis precedes DNA translocation and does not require SpoIIIE, as suggested by analysis of lipid dynamics, serial thin-section electron microscopy, and cell separation by protoplasting. These data support a model for DNA transport in which the transmembrane segments of FtsK/SpoIIIE form linked DNA-conducting channels across the two lipid bilayers of the septum.
Multiprotein complexes in the cell are dynamic entities that are constantly undergoing changes in subunit composition and conformation to carry out their functions. The protein-DNA complex that promotes recombination of the bacteriophage Mu is a prime example of a complex that must undergo specific changes to carry out its function. The Clp/Hsp100 family of AAA+ ATPases plays a critical role in mediating such changes. The Clp/Hsp100 unfolding enzymes have been extensively studied for the roles they play in protein degradation. However, degradation is not the only fate for proteins that come in contact with the ATP-dependent unfolding enzymes. The Clp/Hsp100 enzymes induce structural changes in their substrates. These structural changes, which we refer to as "remodeling", ultimately change the biological activity of the substrate. These biological changes include activation, inactivation (not associated with degradation), and relocation within the cell. Analysis of the interaction between Escherichia coli ClpX unfoldase and the Mu recombination complex, has provided molecular insight into the mechanisms of protein remodeling. We discuss the key mechanistic features of the remodeling reactions promoted by ClpX and possible implications of these findings for other biological reactions.
Machines of protein destruction-including energy-dependent proteases and disassembly chaperones of the AAA(+) ATPase family-function in all kingdoms of life to sculpt the cellular proteome, ensuring that unnecessary and dangerous proteins are eliminated and biological responses to environmental change are rapidly and properly regulated. Exciting progress has been made in understanding how AAA(+) machines recognize specific proteins as targets and then carry out ATP-dependent dismantling of the tertiary and/or quaternary structure of these molecules during the processes of protein degradation and the disassembly of macromolecular complexes.
The Clp/Hsp100 ATPases are protein unfoldases that both alter protein conformation and target proteins for degradation. An unresolved question has been how such seemingly destructive enzymes can "remodel" some protein substrates rather than destroy them. Here, we investigate the products of ClpX-mediated remodeling of a hyper-stable protein-DNA complex, the Mu transpososome. We find that although an oligomeric complex is maintained, release of some subunits accompanies ClpX action. Replacement of transposase's endogenous ClpX-recognition sequence with an exogenous signal reveals that the mechanism of remodeling is independent of both the recognition signal and the identity of the unfoldase. Finally, examination of the transposase-DNA contacts reveals only a localized region that is altered during remodeling. These results provide a framework for protein remodeling, wherein the physical attributes of a complex can limit the unfolding activity of its remodeler.
E. coli ClpX, a member of the Clp/Hsp100 family of ATPases, remodels multicomponent complexes and facilitates ATP-dependent degradation. Here, we analyze the mechanism by which ClpX destabilizes the exceedingly stable Mu transpososome, a natural substrate for remodeling rather than degradation. We find that ClpX has the capacity to globally unfold transposase monomers, the building blocks of the transpososome. A biochemical probe for protein unfolding reveals that ClpX also unfolds MuA subunits during remodeling reactions, but that not all subunits have their structure extensively modified. In fact, direct recognition and unfolding of a single transposase subunit are sufficient for ClpX to destabilize the entire transpososome. Thus, the ability of ClpX to unfold proteins is sufficient to explain its role in both complex destabilization and ATP-dependent proteolysis.
The Escherichia coli umuDC gene products encode DNA polymerase V, which participates in both translesion DNA synthesis (TLS) and a DNA damage checkpoint control. These two temporally distinct roles of the umuDC gene products are regulated by RecA-single-stranded DNA-facilitated self-cleavage of UmuD (which participates in the checkpoint control) to yield UmuD' (which enables TLS). In addition, even modest overexpression of the umuDC gene products leads to a cold-sensitive growth phenotype, apparently due to the inappropriate expression of the DNA damage checkpoint control activity of UmuD(2)C. We have previously reported that overexpression of the epsilon proofreading subunit of DNA polymerase III suppresses umuDC-mediated cold sensitivity, suggesting that interaction of epsilon with UmuD(2)C is important for the DNA damage checkpoint control function of the umuDC gene products. Here, we report that overexpression of the beta processivity clamp of the E. coli replicative DNA polymerase (encoded by the dnaN gene) not only exacerbates the cold sensitivity conferred by elevated levels of the umuDC gene products but, in addition, confers a severe cold-sensitive phenotype upon a strain expressing moderately elevated levels of the umuD'C gene products. Such a strain is not otherwise normally cold sensitive. To identify mutant beta proteins possibly deficient for physical interactions with the umuDC gene products, we selected for novel dnaN alleles unable to confer a cold-sensitive growth phenotype upon a umuD'C-overexpressing strain. In all, we identified 75 dnaN alleles, 62 of which either reduced the expression of beta or prematurely truncated its synthesis, while the remaining alleles defined eight unique missense mutations of dnaN. Each of the dnaN missense mutations retained at least a partial ability to function in chromosomal DNA replication in vivo. In addition, these eight dnaN alleles were also unable to exacerbate the cold sensitivity conferred by modestly elevated levels of the umuDC gene products, suggesting that the interactions between UmuD' and beta are a subset of those between UmuD and beta. Taken together, these findings suggest that interaction of beta with UmuD(2)C is important for the DNA damage checkpoint function of the umuDC gene products. Four possible models for how interactions of UmuD(2)C with the epsilon and the beta subunits of DNA polymerase III might help to regulate DNA replication in response to DNA damage are discussed.
ClpXP is a protein machine composed of the ClpX ATPase, a member of the Clp/Hsp100 family of remodeling enzymes, and the ClpP peptidase. Here, ClpX and ClpXP are shown to catalyze denaturation of GFP modified with an ssrA degradation tag. ClpX translocates this denatured protein into the proteolytic chamber of ClpP and, when proteolysis is blocked, also catalyzes release of denatured GFP-ssrA from ClpP in a reaction that requires ATP and additional substrate. Kinetic experiments reveal that multiple reaction steps require collaboration between ClpX and ClpP and that denaturation is the rate-determining step in degradation. These insights into the mechanism of ClpXP explain how it executes efficient degradation in a manner that is highly specific for tagged proteins, irrespective of their intrinsic stabilities.