Don Walthers

Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon, United States

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Publications (14)64.01 Total impact

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    Ann A Lin, Don Walthers, Peter Zuber
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    ABSTRACT: Spx, a member of the ArsC protein family, is a regulatory factor that interacts with RNA polymerase (RNAP). It is highly conserved in Gram-positive bacteria and controls transcription on a genome-wide scale in response to oxidative stress. The structural requirements for RNAP interaction and promoter DNA recognition by Spx were examined through mutational analysis. Residues near the CxxC redox disulfide center of Spx functioned in RNAP α subunit interaction and in promoter DNA binding. R60E and C10A mutants were shown previously to confer defects in transcriptional activation, but both were able to interact with RNAP. R92, which is conserved in ArsC-family proteins, is likely involved in redox control of Spx, as the C10A mutation, which blocks disulfide formation, was epistatic to the R92A mutation. The R91A mutation reduced transcriptional activation and repression, suggesting a defect in RNAP interaction, which was confirmed by interaction assays using an epitope-tagged mutant protein. Protein-DNA crosslinking detected contact between RNAP-bound Spx and the -AGCA- element at -44 that is conserved in Spx-controlled genes. This interaction caused repositioning of the RNAP σ(A) subunit from a -35-like element upstream of the trxB (thioredoxin reductase) promoter to positions -36 and -11 of the core promoter. The study shows that RNAP-bound Spx contacts a conserved upstream promoter sequence element when bound to RNAP.
    Journal of bacteriology 06/2013; DOI:10.1128/JB.00645-13 · 2.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The response regulator SsrB activates expression of genes encoded within and outside of a pathogenicity island (SPI-2), which is required for systemic infection of Salmonella. SsrB binds upstream of the sifA, sifB, and sseJ effector genes and directly regulates transcription. SsrB also relieves gene silencing by the nucleoid protein H-NS. Single molecule experiments with magnetic tweezers demonstrated that SsrB displaces H-NS from DNA only when it is bound in a polymerization (stiffening) mode and not when H-NS is bound to DNA in the bridging mode. Thus, in contrast to previous views, the polymerization binding mode of H-NS is the relevant form for counter-silencing by SsrB. Our results reveal that response regulators can directly activate transcription and also relieve H-NS silencing. This study adds to the repertoire of mechanisms by which NarL/FixJ subfamily members regulate transcription. Because SsrB-dependent promoters are diversely organized, additional mechanisms of transcriptional activation at other loci are likely.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 11/2010; 286(3):1895-902. DOI:10.1074/jbc.M110.164962 · 4.60 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 01/2010; 98(3). DOI:10.1016/j.bpj.2009.12.1102 · 3.83 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The acquisition of DNA by horizontal gene transfer enables bacteria to adapt to previously unexploited ecological niches. Although horizontal gene transfer and mutation of protein-coding sequences are well-recognized forms of pathogen evolution, the evolutionary significance of cis-regulatory mutations in creating phenotypic diversity through altered transcriptional outputs is not known. We show the significance of regulatory mutation for pathogen evolution by mapping and then rewiring a cis-regulatory module controlling a gene required for murine typhoid. Acquisition of a binding site for the Salmonella pathogenicity island-2 regulator, SsrB, enabled the srfN gene, ancestral to the Salmonella genus, to play a role in pathoadaptation of S. typhimurium to a host animal. We identified the evolved cis-regulatory module and quantified the fitness gain that this regulatory output accrues for the bacterium using competitive infections of host animals. Our findings highlight a mechanism of pathogen evolution involving regulatory mutation that is selected because of the fitness advantage the new regulatory output provides the incipient clones.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 03/2009; 106(10):3982-7. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0811669106 · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • Biophysical Journal 02/2009; 96(3). DOI:10.1016/j.bpj.2008.12.227 · 3.83 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: All living organisms communicate with the external environment for their survival and existence. In prokaryotes, communication is achieved by two-component systems (TCS) comprising histidine kinases and response regulators. In eukaryotes, signalling is accomplished by serine/threonine and tyrosine kinases. Although TCS and serine/threonine kinases coexist in prokaryotes, direct cross-talk between these families was first described in Group B Streptococcus (GBS). A serine/threonine kinase (Stk1) and a TCS (CovR/CovS) co-regulate toxin expression in GBS. Typically, promoter binding of regulators like CovR is controlled by phosphorylation of the conserved active site aspartate (D53). In this study, we show that Stk1 phosphorylates CovR at threonine 65. The functional consequence of threonine phosphorylation of CovR in GBS was evaluated using phosphomimetic and silencing substitutions. GBS encoding the phosphomimetic T65E allele are deficient for CovR regulation unlike strains encoding the non-phosphorylated T65A allele. Further, compared with wild-type or T65A CovR, the T65E CovR is unable to bind promoter DNA and is decreased for phosphorylation at D53, similar to Stk1-phosphorylated CovR. Collectively, we provide evidence for a novel mechanism of response regulator control that enables GBS (and possibly other prokaryotes) to fine-tune gene expression for environmental adaptation.
    Molecular Microbiology 02/2009; 71(6):1477-95. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2009.06616.x · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The two-component system SsrA-SsrB activates expression of a type III secretion system required for replication in macrophages and systemic infection in mice. Here we characterize the SsrB-dependent regulation of genes within Salmonella pathogenicity island 2 (SPI-2). Primer extension and DNase I footprinting identified multiple SsrB-regulated promoters within SPI-2 located upstream of ssaB, sseA, ssaG and ssaM. We previously demonstrated that ssrA and ssrB transcription is uncoupled. Overexpression of SsrB in the absence of its cognate kinase, SsrA, is sufficient to activate SPI-2 transcription. Because SsrB requires phosphorylation to relieve inhibitory contacts that occlude its DNA-binding domain, additional components must phosphorylate SsrB. SPI-2 promoters examined in single copy were highly SsrB-dependent, activated during growth in macrophages and induced by acidic pH. The nucleoid structuring protein H-NS represses horizontally acquired genes; we confirmed that H-NS is a negative regulator of SPI-2 gene expression. In the absence of H-NS, the requirement for SsrB in activating SPI-2 genes is substantially reduced, suggesting a role for SsrB in countering H-NS silencing. SsrB activates transcription of multiple operons within SPI-2 by binding to degenerate DNA targets at diversely organized promoters. SsrB appears to possess dual activities to promote SPI-2 gene expression: activation of transcription and relief of H-NS-mediated repression.
    Molecular Microbiology 08/2007; 65(2):477-93. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.05800.x · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Chlamydia spp. are obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens that alternate between two metabolically and morphologically distinct developmental forms, and differentiation depends on transcriptional regulation. Genome sequencing of Chlamydia trachomatis revealed an ORF, CT630 (chxR), whose amino acid sequence contains a winged helix-turn-helix motif similar to the DNA-binding domain of response regulators in the OmpR subfamily. ChxR differs from many response regulators in that essential residues in the receiver or phosphorylation domain are lacking. ChxR functions as a transcriptional regulator because it activated transcription of ompF and ompC when expressed in Escherichia coli. In vitro transcription combined with microarray analysis also demonstrated that ChxR activates its own expression by binding directly to sites upstream of chxR; it also activates infA, tufA, oppA, and CT084. DNase I protection studies showed that ChxR bound to sites in the ompF and ompC promoter proximal regions that overlap but were distinct from OmpR binding sites. Both proteins could bind simultaneously to their nonoverlapping binding sites. This report identifies a stage-specific transcriptional regulator and some of its target genes in Chlamydia.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2006; 103(3):750-5. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0509690103 · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We performed transposon mutagenesis of a two-color fluorescent reporter strain to identify new regulators of the porin genes ompF and ompC in Escherichia coli. Screening of colonies by fluorescence microscopy revealed numerous mutants that exhibited interesting patterns of porin expression. One mutant harbored an insertion in the gene encoding the histidine kinase CpxA, the sensor for a two-component signaling system that responds to envelope stress. The cpxA mutant exhibited increased transcription of ompC and a very strong decrease in transcription of ompF under conditions in which acetyl phosphate levels were high. Subsequent genetic analysis revealed that this phenotype is dependent on phosphorylation of the response regulator CpxR and that activation of CpxA in wild-type cells results in similar regulation of porin expression. Using DNase I footprinting, we demonstrated that CpxR binds upstream of both the ompF and ompC promoters. It thus appears that two distinct two-component systems, CpxA-CpxR and EnvZ-OmpR, converge at the porin promoters. Within the context of envelope stress, outer membrane beta-barrel proteins have generally been associated with the sigma E pathway. However, at least for the classical porins OmpF and OmpC, our results show that the Cpx envelope stress response system plays a role in regulating their expression.
    Journal of Bacteriology 09/2005; 187(16):5723-31. DOI:10.1128/JB.187.16.5723-5731.2005 · 2.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In Escherichia coli, the EnvZ/OmpR two-component regulatory system regulates expression of the porin genes ompF and ompC in response to changes in osmolarity. It has recently become apparent that OmpR functions as a global regulator, by regulating the expression of many genes in addition to the porin genes. OmpR consists of two domains; phosphorylation of the N-terminal receiver domain increases DNA binding affinity of the C-terminal domain and vice versa. Many response regulators including PhoB and FixJ dimerize upon phosphorylation. Here, we demonstrate that OmpR dimerization is stimulated by phosphorylation or by DNA binding. The dimerization interface revealed here was unanticipated and had previously not been predicted. Using the accepted head-to-tail tandem-binding model as a guide, we set out to examine the intermolecular interactions between OmpR dimers bound to DNA by protein-protein cross-linking methods. Surprisingly, amino acid positions that we expected to form cross-linked dimers did not. Conversely, positions predicted not to form dimers did. Because of these results, we designed a series of 23 cysteine-substituted OmpR mutants that were used to investigate dimer interfaces formed via the beta-sheet region. This four-stranded beta-sheet is a unique feature of the OmpR group of winged helix-turn-helix proteins. Many of the cysteine-substituted mutants are dominant to wild-type OmpR, are phosphorylated by acetyl phosphate as well as the cognate kinase EnvZ, and the cross-linked proteins are capable of binding to DNA. Our results are consistent with a model in which OmpR binds to DNA in a head-to-head orientation, in contrast to the previously proposed asymmetric head-to-tail model. They also raise the possibility that OmpR may be capable of adopting more than one orientation as it binds to a vast array of genes to activate or repress transcription.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 08/2005; 350(5):843-56. DOI:10.1016/j.jmb.2005.05.057 · 3.96 Impact Factor
  • Don Walthers, Alvin Go, Linda J. Kenney
    Bacterial and Eukaryotic Porins: Structure, Function, Mechanism, 06/2005: pages 1 - 24; , ISBN: 9783527603879
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    ABSTRACT: Analysis of the transcriptome of slyA mutant Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium revealed that many SlyA-dependent genes, including pagC, pagD, ugtL, mig-14, virK, phoN, pgtE, pipB2, sopD2, pagJ and pagK, are also controlled by the PhoP/PhoQ regulatory system. Many SlyA- and PhoP/PhoQ-co-regulated genes have functions associated with the bacterial envelope, and some have been directly implicated in virulence and resistance to antimicrobial peptides. Purified His-tagged SlyA binds to the pagC and mig-14 promoters in regions homologous to a previously proposed 'SlyA-box'. The pagC promoter lacks a consensus PhoP binding site and does not bind PhoP in vitro, suggesting that the effect of PhoP on pagC transcription is indirect. Stimulation of pagC expression by PhoP requires SlyA. Levels of SlyA protein and mRNA are not significantly changed under low-magnesium PhoP-inducing conditions in which pagC expression is profoundly elevated, however, indicating that the PhoP/PhoQ system does not activate pagC expression by altering SlyA protein concentration. Models are proposed in which PhoP may control SlyA activity via a soluble ligand or SlyA may function as an anti-repressor to allow PhoP activation. The absence of almost all SlyA-activated genes from the Escherichia coli K12 genome suggests that the functional linkage between the SlyA and PhoP/PhoQ regulatory systems arose as Salmonella evolved its distinctive pathogenic lifestyle.
    Molecular Microbiology 05/2005; 56(2):492-508. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2005.04553.x · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: OmpR activates expression of the two-component regulatory system located on Salmonella pathogenicity island 2 (SPI-2) that controls the expression of a type III secretion system, as well as many other genes required for systemic infection in mice. Measurements of SsrA and SsrB protein levels under different growth conditions indicate that expression of these two components is uncoupled, i.e. SsrB is produced in the absence of ssrA and vice versa. This result was suggested from our previous studies, in which two promoters at ssrA/B were identified. The isolated C-terminus of SsrB binds to DNA and protects regions upstream of ssrA, ssrB and srfH from DNase I digestion. Furthermore, the C-terminus of SsrB alone is capable of activating transcription in the absence of the N-terminus. Results from beta-galactosidase assays indicate that the N-terminal phosphorylation domain inhibits the C-terminal effector domain. A previous study from our laboratory reported that ssrA-lacZ and ssrB-lacZ transcriptional fusions were substantially reduced in an ssrB null strain. Results from DNase I protection assays provide direct evidence that SsrB binds at ssrA and ssrB, although the binding sites lie within the transcribed regions. Additional regulators clearly affect gene expression at this important locus, and here we provide evidence that SlyA, a transcription factor that contributes to Salmonella virulence, also affects ssrA/B gene expression.
    Molecular Microbiology 12/2004; 54(3):823-35. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04317.x · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    Don Walthers, Van K Tran, Linda J Kenney
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    ABSTRACT: OmpR and PhoB are response regulators that contain an N-terminal phosphorylation domain and a C-terminal DNA binding effector domain connected by a flexible interdomain linker. Phosphorylation of the N terminus results in an increase in affinity for specific DNA and the subsequent regulation of gene expression. Despite their sequence and structural similarity, OmpR and PhoB employ different mechanisms to regulate their effector domains. Phosphorylation of OmpR in the N terminus stimulates the DNA binding affinity of the C terminus, whereas phosphorylation of the PhoB N terminus relieves inhibition of the C terminus, enabling it to bind to DNA. Chimeras between OmpR and PhoB containing either interdomain linker were constructed to explore the basis of the differences in their activation mechanisms. Our results indicate that effector domain regulation by either N terminus requires its cognate interdomain linker. In addition, our findings suggest that the isolated C terminus of OmpR is not sufficient for a productive interaction with RNA polymerase.
    Journal of Bacteriology 02/2003; 185(1):317-24. DOI:10.1128/JB.185.1.317-324.2003 · 2.69 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

458 Citations
64.01 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2003–2013
    • Oregon Health and Science University
      • • Department of Environmental and Biomolecular Systems
      • • Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology
      Portland, Oregon, United States
  • 2004–2010
    • University of Illinois at Chicago
      • Department of Microbiology and Immunology (Chicago)
      Chicago, IL, United States