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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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