Bacteria sense their environment to alter phenotypes, including biofilm formation, to survive changing conditions. Heme proteins play important roles in sensing the bacterial gaseous environment and controlling the switch between motile and sessile (biofilm) states. Globin coupled sensors (GCS), a family of heme proteins consisting of a globin domain linked by a central domain to an output domain, are often found with diguanylate cyclase output domains that synthesize c-di-GMP, a major regulator of biofilm formation. Characterization of diguanylate cyclase-containing GCS proteins from Bordetella pertussis and Pectobacterium carotovorum demonstrated that cyclase activity is controlled by ligand binding to the heme within the globin domain. Both O2 binding to the heme within the globin domain and c-di-GMP binding to a product-binding inhibitory site (I-site) within the cyclase domain control oligomerization states of the enzymes. Changes in oligomerization state caused by c-di-GMP binding to the I-site also affect O2 kinetics within the globin domain, suggesting that shifting the oligomer equilibrium leads to broad rearrangements throughout the protein. In addition, mutations within the I-site that eliminate product inhibition result in changes to the accessible oligomerization states and decreased catalytic activity. These studies provide insight into the mechanism by which ligand binding to the heme and I-site controls activity of GCS proteins and suggests a role for oligomerization-dependent activity in vivo.
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