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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Structural characterization of superbug proteins involved in regulating beta-lactam resistance Wilke, Mark Steven


The widespread use of β-lactams has undermined their effectiveness as chemotherapeutic agents by fueling the evolution and dissemination of multiple resistance mechanisms, including: (1) production of hydrolytic β-lactamase enzymes that inactivate β-­lactams, (2) expression of PBPs with low-affinity for β-­lactams and (3) overexpression of multidrug efflux pumps which actively expunge β-­lactams and other toxic substances. The overall goal of this thesis is the structural characterization of bacterial proteins involved in regulating β-lactam resistance. The notorious resistance of Staphylococcus aureus primarily stems from the production of β-lactamases and PBP2a, a low-affinity PBP which confers broad-spectrum β-­lactam resistance in methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) strains. Expression of these resistance determinants is controlled by a β-­lactam-inducible transmembrane receptor (BlaR1/MecR1) and repressor (BlaI/MecI). This dissertation presents the crystal structure of the BlaR1 sensor domain (BlaRs) from S. aureus, determined in its apo form and acylated with penicillin G. These structures reveal that acylation by β-lactams is not accompanied by a BlaRs conformational change. It is also shown that mutation of the BlaR1 L2 loop prevents induction of β-­lactamase expression in vivo, supporting that the L2 loop plays an important role in signal transduction. The intrinsic resistance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to a variety of antibiotics (including β-lactams) is exacerbated in mutant strains that overexpress multidrug efflux pumps such as MexAB-OprM. Production of MexAB-OprM is controlled by the MarR family repressor, MexR, and several hyper-resistant strains of P. aeruginosa appear to involve mutations in either MexR or additional regulatory factors upstream of MexR. The allosteric effectors of MarR proteins are typically small lipophenolic compounds. This dissertation confirms that MexR is uniquely modulated by the 53 residue protein, ArmR. Electromobility gel shift assays and isothermal titration calorimetry demonstrate that a direct MexR-ArmR interaction is responsible for neutralizing the affinity of MexR for its DNA operator. The allosteric conformational change induced by ArmR-binding was assessed by determining the crystal structure of MexR double mutant Q106L/A110L (MexRLL) in complex with ArmR residues 29-53 (ArmRC). This structure shows that ArmR induces a dramatic conformational change which repositions the MexR DNA-binding lobes into an orientation that is incompatible with binding DNA.

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