Structural and functional studies of bacterial protein tyrosine kinases
Lee, Daniel Cho-En
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While protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs) have been extensively characterized in eukaryotes, far less is known about their emerging counterparts in prokaryotes. Studies of close to 20 homologs of bacterial protein tyrosine (BY) kinases have inaugurated a blooming new field of research, all since just the end of the last decade. These kinases are key regulators in the polymerization and exportation of the virulence-determining polysaccharides which shield the bacterial from the non-specific defenses of the host. This research is aimed at furthering our understanding of the BY kinases through the use of X-ray crystallography and various in vitro and in vivo experiments. We reported the first crystal structure of a bacterial PTK, the C-terminal kinase domain of E. coli tyrosine kinase (Etk) at 2.5Å resolution. The fold of the Etk kinase domain differs markedly from that of eukaryotic PTKs. Based on the observed structure and supporting evidences, we proposed a unique activation mechanism for BY kinases in Gram-negative bacteria. The phosphorylation of tyrosine residue Y574 at the active site and the specific interaction of P-Y574 with a previously unidentified key arginine residue, R614, unblock the Etk active site and activate the kinase. Both in vitro kinase activity and in vivo antibiotics resistance studies utilizing structure-guided mutants further support the novel activation mechanism. In addition, the level of phosphorylation of their C-terminal Tyr cluster is known to regulate the translocation of extracellular polysaccharides. Our studies have significantly clarified our understanding of how the phosphorylation status on the C-terminal tyrosine cluster of BY kinases affects the oligomerization state of the protein, which is likely the machinery of polysaccharide export regulation. In summary, this research makes a substantial contribution to the rapidly progressing research of bacterial tyrosine kinases.