Mycobacterium tuberculosis WhiB3 responds to O2 and nitric oxide via its [4Fe-4S] cluster and is essential for nutrient starvation survival

Amit Singh, Loni Guidry, K. V. Narasimhulu, Deborah Mai, John Trombley, Kevin E. Redding, Gregory I. Giles, Jack R. Lancaster, Adrie J.C. Steyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


A fundamental challenge in the redox biology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) is to understand the mechanisms involved in sensing redox signals such as oxygen (O2), nitric oxide (NO), and nutrient depletion, which are thought to play a crucial role in persistence. Here we show that Mtb WhiB3 responds to the dormancy signals NO and O2 through its iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster. To functionally assemble the WhiB3 Fe-S cluster, we identified and characterized the Mtb cysteine desulfurase (IscS; Rv3025c) and developed a native enzymatic reconstitution system for assembling Fe-S clusters in Mtb. EPR and UV-visible spectroscopy analysis of reduced WhiB3 is consistent with a one-electron reduction of EPR silent [4Fe-4S]2+ to EPR visible [4Fe-4S]+. Atmospheric O2 gradually degrades the WhiB3 [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster to generate a [3Fe-4S]+ intermediate. Furthermore, EPR analysis demonstrates that NO forms a protein-bound dinitrosyl-iron-dithiol complex with the Fe-S cluster, indicating that NO specifically targets the WhiB3 Fe-S cluster. Our data suggest that the mechanism of WhiB3 4Fe-4S cluster degradation is similar to that of fumarate nitrate regulator. Importantly, Mtb ΔwhiB3 shows enhanced growth on acetate medium, but a growth defect on media containing glucose, pyruvate, succinate, or fumarate as the sole carbon source. Our results implicate WhiB3 in metabolic switching and in sensing the physiologically relevant host signaling molecules NO and O2 through its [4Fe-4S] cluster. Taken together, our results suggest that WhiB3 is an intracellular redox sensor that integrates environmental redox signals with core intermediary metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11562-11567
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number28
StatePublished - Jul 10 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Dormancy
  • Iron-sulfur
  • Metabolism
  • Redox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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