Differential binding of ppGpp and pppGpp toE. coliRNA polymerase: photo-labeling and mass spectral studies

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(p)ppGpp, a secondary messenger, is induced under stress and shows pleiotropic response. It binds to RNA polymerase and regulates transcription inEscherichia coli. More than 25 years have passed since the first discovery was made on the direct interaction of ppGpp withE. coliRNA polymerase. Several lines of evidence suggest different modes of ppGpp binding to the enzyme. Earlier cross-linking experiments suggested that the β-subunit of RNA polymerase is the preferred site for ppGpp, whereas recent crystallographic studies pinpoint the interface of β'/ω-subunits as the site of action. With an aim to validate the binding domain and to follow whether tetra- and pentaphosphate guanosines have different location on RNA polymerase, this work was initiated. RNA polymerase was photo-labeled with 8-azido-ppGpp/8-azido-pppGpp, and the product was digested with trypsin and subjected to mass spectrometry analysis. We observed three new peptides in the trypsin digest of the RNA polymerase labeled with 8-azido-ppGpp, of which two peptides correspond to the same pocket on β′-subunit as predicted by X-ray structural analysis, whereas the third peptide was mapped on the β-subunit. In the case of 8-azido-pppGpp-labeled RNA polymerase, we have found only one cross-linked peptide from the β′-subunit. However, we were unable to identify any binding site of pppGpp on the β-subunit. Interestingly, we observed that pppGpp at high concentration competes out ppGpp bound to RNA polymerase more efficiently, whereas ppGpp cannot titrate out pppGpp. The competition between tetraphosphate guanosine and pentaphosphate guanosine forE. coliRNA polymerase was followed by gel-based assay as well as by a new method known as DRaCALA assay.

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