Molecular Basis for Environment Sensing by a Nucleoid-Structuring Bacterial Protein Filament

Xiaochuan Zhao, Jacob M. Remington, Severin T. Schneebeli, Stefan T. Arold, Jianing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The histone-like nucleoid structuring (H-NS) protein controls the expression of hundreds of genes in Gram-positive bacteria through its capability to coat and condense DNA. This mechanism requires the formation of superhelical H-NS protein filaments that are sensitive to temperature and salinity, allowing H-NS to act as an environment sensor. We use multiscale modeling and simulations to obtain detailed insights into the mechanism of H-NS filament's sensitivity to environmental changes. Through the simulations of the superhelical H-NS filament, we reveal how different environments induce heterogeneity of H-NS monomers. Further, we observe that transient self-association within the H-NS filament creates temperature-inducible strain and might mildly oppose DNA binding. We also probe different H-NS-DNA complex architectures and show that complexation enhances the stability of both DNA and H-NS superhelices. Overall, our results provide unprecedented molecular insights into the environmental sensing and DNA interactions of a prototypical nucleoid-structuring bacterial protein filament.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7878-7884
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 12 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-08-30
Acknowledgements: We thank Dr. Chenyi Liao (Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics) for helpful discussion and the Vermont Advanced Computing Core for supercomputing resources. X.Z. and J.L. were partially supported by an NSF award (CHE-1945394 to J.L.); J.M.R. was supported by an NIH award (R01GM129431 to J.L.); S.T.S. was supported by the U.S. Army Research Office (Grant 71015-CH-YIP). Research by S.T.A was supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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