VirB, a transcriptional activator of virulence in Shigella flexneri, uses CTP as a cofactor
VirB is a transcriptional activator of virulence in the gram-negative bacterium Shigella flexneri encoded by the large invasion plasmid, pINV. It counteracts the transcriptional silencing by the nucleoid structuring protein, H-NS. Mutations in virB lead to loss of virulence. Studies suggested that VirB binds to specific DNA sequences, remodels the H-NS nucleoprotein complexes, and changes DNA supercoiling. VirB belongs to the superfamily of ParB proteins which are involved in plasmid and chromosome partitioning often as part of a ParABS system. Like ParB, VirB forms discrete foci in Shigella flexneri cells harbouring pINV. Our results reveal that purified preparations of VirB specifically bind the ribonucleotide CTP and slowly but detectably hydrolyse it with mild stimulation by the virS targeting sequences found on pINV. We show that formation of VirB foci in cells requires a virS site and CTP binding residues in VirB. Curiously, DNA stimulation of clamp closure appears efficient even without a virS sequence in vitro. Specificity for entrapment of virS DNA is however evident at elevated salt concentrations. These findings suggest that VirB acts as a CTP-dependent DNA clamp and indicate that the cellular microenvironment contributes to the accumulation of VirB specifically at virS sites.