Ramirez-Sarmiento, Cesar A.; Noel, Jeffrey K.; Valenzuela, Sandro L.; Artsimovitch, Irina
Interdomain Contacts Control Native State Switching of RfaH on a Dual-Funneled Landscape
PLOS COMPUTATIONAL BIOLOGY, 11 Art. No. e1004379, JUL 2015

RfaH is a virulence factor from Escherichia coli whose C-terminal domain (CTD) undergoes a dramatic alpha-to-beta conformational transformation. The CTD in its alpha-helical fold is stabilized by interactions with the N-terminal domain (NTD), masking an RNA polymerase binding site until a specific recruitment site is encountered. Domain dissociation is triggered upon binding to DNA, allowing the NTD to interact with RNA polymerase to facilitate transcription while the CTD refolds into the alpha-barrel conformation that interacts with the ribosome to activate translation. However, structural details of this transformation process in the context of the full protein remain to be elucidated. Here, we explore the mechanism of the alpha-to-beta conformational transition of RfaH in the full-length protein using a dual-basin structure-based model. Our simulations capture several features described experimentally, such as the requirement of disruption of interdomain contacts to trigger the alpha-to-beta transformation, confirms the roles of previously indicated residues E48 and R138, and suggests a new important role for F130, in the stability of the interdomain interaction. These native basins are connected through an intermediate state that builds up upon binding to the NTD and shares features from both folds, in agreement with previous in silico studies of the isolated CTD. We also examine the effect of RNA polymerase binding on the stabilization of the beta fold. Our study shows that native-biased models are appropriate for interrogating the detailed mechanisms of structural rearrangements during the dramatic transformation process of RfaH.


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