Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) contains two clpP genes, both of which are essential for viability. We expressed and purified Mtb ClpP1 and ClpP2 separately. Although each formed a tetradecameric structure and was processed, they lacked proteolytic activity. We could, however, reconstitute an active, mixed ClpP1P2 complex after identifying N-blocked dipeptides that stimulate dramatically (>1000-fold) ClpP1P2 activity against certain peptides and proteins. These activators function cooperatively to induce the dissociation of ClpP1 and ClpP2 tetradecamers into heptameric rings, which then re-associate to form the active ClpP1P2 2-ring mixed complex. No analogous small molecule-induced enzyme activation mechanism involving dissociation and re-association of multimeric rings has been described. ClpP1P2 possesses chymotrypsin and caspase-like activities, and ClpP1 and ClpP2 differ in cleavage preferences. The regulatory ATPase ClpC1 was purified and shown to increase hydrolysis of proteins by ClpP1P2, but not peptides. ClpC1 did not activate ClpP1 or ClpP2 homotetradecamers and stimulated ClpP1P2 only when both ATP and a dipeptide activator were present. ClpP1P2 activity, its unusual activation mechanism and ClpC1 ATPase represent attractive drug targets to combat tuberculosis.
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