Autoinhibitory Regulation of TrwK, an Essential VirB4 ATPase in Type IV Secretion Systems
Type IV secretion systems (T4SS) mediate the transfer of DNA and protein substrates to target cells. TrwK, encoded by the conjugative plasmid R388, is a member of the VirB4 family, comprising the largest and most conserved proteins of T4SS. In a previous work we demonstrated that TrwK is able to hydrolyze ATP. Here, based on the structural homology of VirB4 proteins with the DNA-pumping ATPase TrwB coupling protein, we generated a series of variants of TrwK where fragments of the C-terminal domain were sequentially truncated. Surprisingly, the in vitro ATPase activity of these TrwK variants was much higher than that of the wild-type enzyme. Moreover, addition of a synthetic peptide containing the amino acid residues comprising this C-terminal region resulted in the specific inhibition of the TrwK variants lacking such domain. These results indicate that the C-terminal end of TrwK plays an important regulatory role in the functioning of the T4SS.