Novel utilization of the coiled-coil motif is presented that enables TlpA, an autoregulatory repressor protein in Salmonella, to sense temperature shifts directly and thereby to modulate the extent of transcription repression. Salmonella cells shifted to higher temperatures, such as those encountered at host entry, showed de-repressed tlpA activity. tlpA::lacZ fusions indicated that the promoter itself is insensitive to thermal shifts and that transcription control was exerted by the autorepressor TlpA only. In vitro studies with highly purified TlpA showed concentration and temperature dependence for both fully folded conformation and function, indicating that the thermosensing in TlpA is based on monomer-to-coiled-coil equilibrium.
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