Staphylococcus aureus virulence is regulated when secreted autoinducing peptides (AIPs) are recognized by a membrane-bound receptor histidine kinase (RHK), AgrC. Some AIPs are agonists of virulence gene expression, while others are antagonists. It is unclear how AIP binding regulates AgrC activity. Here, we reconstitute an AgrC family member, AgrC-I, using nanometer-scale lipid bilayer discs. We show that AgrC-I requires membranes rich in anionic lipids to function. The agonist, AIP-I, binds AgrC-I noncooperatively in a 2:2 stoichiometry, while an antagonist ligand, AIP-II, functions as an inverse agonist of the kinase activity. We also demonstrate the kinase and sensor domains in AgrC are connected by a helical linker whose conformational state exercises rheostat-like control over the kinase activity. Binding of agonist or inverse-agonist peptides results in twisting of the linker in different directions. These two observations provide a view of the molecular motions triggered by ligand binding in an intact membrane-bound RHK.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology