Scientific Field Life & Health SciencesFellow Dr Emmanuel Saridakis
The bacterial Rho factor is a ring-shaped motor triggering genome-wide transcription termination and R-loop dissociation. Rho is essential in many species, including in Mycobacterium tuberculosis where rho gene inactivation leads to rapid death. Yet, the M. tuberculosis Rho [MtbRho] factor displays poor NTPase and helicase activities, and resistance to the natural Rho inhibitor bicyclomycin [BCM] that remain unexplained. To address these issues, we solved the cryo-EM structure of MtbRho at 3.3 Å resolution. The MtbRho hexamer is poised into a pre-catalytic, open-ring state wherein specific contacts stabilize ATP in intersubunit ATPase pockets, thereby explaining the cofactor preference of MtbRho. We reveal a leucine-to-methionine substitution that creates a steric bulk in BCM binding cavities near the positions of ATP γ-phosphates, and confers resistance to BCM at the expense of motor efficiency. Our work contributes to explain the unusual features of MtbRho and provides a framework for future antibiotic development.