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Intrinsic Thermal Sensing Controls Proteolysis of Yersinia Virulence Regulator RovA

DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000435

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Pathogens, which alternate between environmental reservoirs and a mammalian host, frequently use thermal sensing devices to adjust virulence gene expression. Here, we identify the Yersinia virulence regulator RovA as a protein thermometer. Thermal shifts encountered upon host entry lead to a reversible conformational change of the autoactivator, which reduces its DNA-binding functions and renders it more susceptible for proteolysis. Cooperative binding of RovA to its target promoters is significantly reduced at 37°C, indicating that temperature control of rovA transcription is primarily based on the autoregulatory loop. Thermally induced reduction of DNA-binding is accompanied by an enhanced degradation of RovA, primarily by the Lon protease. This process is also subject to growth phase control. Studies with modified/chimeric RovA proteins indicate that amino acid residues in the vicinity of the central DNA-binding domain are important for proteolytic susceptibility. Our results establish RovA as an intrinsic temperature-sensing protein in which thermally induced conformational changes interfere with DNA-binding capacity, and secondarily render RovA susceptible to proteolytic degradation.


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