The RelA hydrolase domain acts as a molecular switch for (p)ppGpp synthesis

Anurag Kumar Sinha, Kristoffer Skovbo Winther*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Bacteria synthesize guanosine tetra- and penta phosphate (commonly referred to as (p)ppGpp) in response to environmental stresses. (p)ppGpp reprograms cell physiology and is essential for stress survival, virulence and antibiotic tolerance. Proteins of the RSH superfamily (RelA/SpoT Homologues) are ubiquitously distributed and hydrolyze or synthesize (p)ppGpp. Structural studies have suggested that the shift between hydrolysis and synthesis is governed by conformational antagonism between the two active sites in RSHs. RelA proteins of γ-proteobacteria exclusively synthesize (p)ppGpp and encode an inactive pseudo-hydrolase domain. Escherichia coli RelA synthesizes (p)ppGpp in response to amino acid starvation with cognate uncharged tRNA at the ribosomal A-site, however, mechanistic details to the regulation of the enzymatic activity remain elusive. Here, we show a role of the enzymatically inactive hydrolase domain in modulating the activity of the synthetase domain of RelA. Using mutagenesis screening and functional studies, we identify a loop region (residues 114-130) in the hydrolase domain, which controls the synthetase activity. We show that a synthetase-inactive loop mutant of RelA is not affected for tRNA binding, but binds the ribosome less efficiently than wild type RelA. Our data support the model that the hydrolase domain acts as a molecular switch to regulate the synthetase activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number434
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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