Deciphering the cellular copper trafficking mechanism in order to develop a new generation of antibiotics
Copper's ability to accept and donate single electrons makes it an ideal redox cofactor, and thus one of the most essential metal ions to the survival of the cell. However, copper ions are also involved in the Fenton reaction and hence capable of driving the generation of hydroxyl radicals, which are deleterious to the cell. Hence, both prokaryotic systems as well as eukaryotic system have developed a considerable regulation mechanism to maintain negligible copper concentration, in the femtomolar concentration. E.coli cells, in common with the vast majority of bacterial cells, require copper for several important enzymes such as ubiquinole oxidases, Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutases, or cytochrome c oxidase. However, as was mentioned above, copper can be deleterious, making protective mechanisms necessary. Deciphering this regulation mechanism in bacteria, is tremendously important from two specific reasons: one over 70% of the putative cuproproteins identified in prokaryotes have homologs in eukaryotes, and thus resolving the copper cycle in prokaryotic systems will also shed light on the copper cycle in eukaryotic systems. Second, copper has been used throughout much of the human civilization as an antimicrobial agent. In this talk we will shed light on two important copper regulation systems in E.coli: the copper periplasmic efflux system, CusCFBA, and the Cu(I) metal sensor, gene expression regulation system, CueR. Using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) spectroscopy, together with biochemical experiments, cell experiments, and computational methods we will present structural model for CusB and CueR in the apo and functional state. Then, based on the structural constraints and cell data we will explain their mechanism of action. Last, we will demonstrate how basic understanding of the function of these systems can assist us in designing new class of antibiotics.