The flexible linker modulates the binding affinity of the TP901-1 CI phage repressor to DNA

Anders Kokkenborg Varming, Kim Krighaar Rasmussen, Zhiyou Zong, Peter Waaben Thulstrup, Mogens Kilstrup, Leila Lo Leggio*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Temperate bacteriophages can switch between two life cycles following infection of a host bacterium: the lytic or lysogenic life cycle. The choice between these is controlled by a bistable genetic switch. We investigated the genetic switch of the lactococcal temperate bacteriophage, TP901-1, which is controlled by two regulatory proteins, the CI repressor and MOR antirepressor. CI consists of a DNA-binding N-terminal domain and a C-terminal domain responsible for oligomerization, connected by a flexible interdomain linker. Full-length CI is hexameric, whereas the truncated version CIΔ58, missing the second C-terminal subdomain, is dimeric, but binds with the same affinity as full-length CI to the OL operator site, responsible for lytic genes transcription repression. Three variants of CIΔ58 with shorter, longer and PP substituted linkers, were produced and confirmed by circular dichroism spectroscopy and nano differential scanning fluorimetry to be well folded. With small-angle X-ray scattering, we delineated the conformational space sampled by the variants and wild-type in solution and found that shortening and lengthening the linker decreases and increases this, respectively, as also substantiated by molecular dynamics and as intended. Isoelectric focusing electrophoresis confirmed that all variants are able to bind to the MOR antirepressor. However, using electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we showed that shortening and lengthening the linker leads to a 94 and 17 times decrease in affinity to OL respectively. Thus, an appropriate linker length appears to be crucial for appropriate DNA-binding and subsequent TP901-1 genetic switch function.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFEBS Journal
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1135-1148
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Bacteriophage
  • Flexible linker
  • Genetic switch
  • Lysogeny
  • Repressor


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