Tuberculosis is one of the oldest known infectious diseases, responsible for millions of deaths annually around the world. The ability of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) to enter into a dormant state has been considered integral to the success of this bacterium as a human pathogen. One of the key systems involved in regulating the entrance into dormancy is the differentially expressed in virulent strain sensor protein (DevS) [(dormancy survival sensor protein (DosS)]. However, the physiological signal for DevS has remained unclear since it was first shown to be a heme-based sensor with conflicting reports on whether it is a redox or an oxygen sensor. To address this question and provide a better understanding of the electronic properties of this protein, we present here, for the first time, a series of spectroelectrochemistry measurements of the full-length holo DevS in anaerobic conditions as well as bound to CO, NO, imidazole (Imz), cyanide, and O2. An interesting feature of this protein is its ability to bind Imz even in the ferrous state, implying small-molecule analogues could be designed as potential regulators. Nonetheless, a midpoint potential (Em) value of +10 mV [vs normal hydrogen electrode (NHE)] for DevS as measured under anaerobic conditions is much higher than the expected cytosolic potential for Mtb or even within stimulated macrophages (~ −270 mV vs NHE), indicating this sensor works in a reduced ferrous state. These data, along with the high oxygen affinity and very slow auto-oxidation rate of DevS, provides evidence that it is not a redox sensor. Overall, this study validates the biological function of DevS as an oxygen sensor directly involved in the dormancy/latency of Mtb.
- heme-based sensor
- redox potential