The remarkable ability of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) to survive inside human macrophages is attributed to the presence of a complex sensory and regulatory network. PrrA is a DNA-binding regulatory protein, belonging to an essential two-component system (TCS), PrrA/B, which is required for early phase intracellular replication of Mtb. Despite its importance, the mechanism of PrrA/B-mediated signaling is not well understood. In the present study, we demonstrate that the binding of PrrA on the promoter DNA and its consequent activation is cumulatively controlled via dual phosphorylation of the protein. We have further characterized the role of terminal phospho-acceptor domain in the physical interaction of PrrA with its cognate kinase PrrB. The genetic deletion of prrA/B in Mycobacterium smegmatis was possible only in the presence of ectopic copies of the genes, suggesting the essentiality of this TCS in fast-growing mycobacterial strains as well. The overexpression of phospho-mimetic mutant (T6D) altered the growth of M. smegmatis in an in vitro culture and affected the replication of Mycobacterium bovis BCG in mouse peritoneal macrophages. Interestingly, the Thr6 site was found to be conserved in Mtb complex, whereas it was altered in some fast-growing mycobacterial strains, indicating that this unique phosphorylation might be predominant in employing the regulatory circuit in M. bovis BCG and presumably also in Mtb complex.

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