BACKGROUND: Genes orthologous to the ybaB loci of Escherichia coli and Haemophilus influenzae are widely distributed among eubacteria. Several years ago, the three-dimensional structures of the YbaB orthologs of both E. coli and H. influenzae were determined, revealing a novel "tweezer"-like structure. However, a function for YbaB had remained elusive, with an early study of the H. influenzae ortholog failing to detect DNA-binding activity. Our group recently determined that the Borrelia burgdorferi YbaB ortholog, EbfC, is a DNA-binding protein. To reconcile those results, we assessed the abilities of both the H. influenzae and E. coli YbaB proteins to bind DNA to which B. burgdorferi EbfC can bind.

RESULTS: Both the H. influenzae and the E. coli YbaB proteins bound to tested DNAs. DNA-binding was not well competed with poly-dI-dC, indicating some sequence preferences for those two proteins. Analyses of binding characteristics determined that both YbaB orthologs bind as homodimers. Different DNA sequence preferences were observed between H. influenzae YbaB, E. coli YbaB and B. burgdorferi EbfC, consistent with amino acid differences in the putative DNA-binding domains of these proteins.

CONCLUSION: Three distinct members of the YbaB/EbfC bacterial protein family have now been demonstrated to bind DNA. Members of this protein family are encoded by a broad range of bacteria, including many pathogenic species, and results of our studies suggest that all such proteins have DNA-binding activities. The functions of YbaB/EbfC family members in each bacterial species are as-yet unknown, but given the ubiquity of these DNA-binding proteins among Eubacteria, further investigations are warranted.

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Published in BMC Microbiology, v. 9, 137.

© 2009 Cooley et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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