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  1. LysR-type transcriptional regulators (LTTRs) form one of the largest families of bacterial regulators. They are widely distributed and contribute to all aspects of metabolism and physiology. Most are homotetramers, with each subunit composed of an N-terminal DNA-binding domain followed by a long helix connecting to an effector-binding domain. LTTRs typically bind DNA in the presence or absence of a small-molecule ligand (effector). In response to cellular signals, conformational changes alter DNA interactions, contact with RNA polymerase, and sometimes contact with other proteins. Many are dual-function repressor–activators, although different modes of regulation may occur at multiple promoters. This review presents an update on the molecular basis of regulation, the complexity of regulatory schemes, and applications in biotechnology and medicine. The abundance of LTTRs reflects their versatility and importance. While a single regulatory model cannot describe all family members, a comparison of similarities and differences provides a framework for future study. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Microbiology, Volume 77 is September 2023. Please see for revised estimates. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 8, 2024
  2. Microbial conversion of aromatic compounds is an emerging and promising strategy for valorization of the plant biopolymer lignin. A critical and often rate-limiting reaction in aromatic catabolism is O -aryl-demethylation of the abundant aromatic methoxy groups in lignin to form diols, which enables subsequent oxidative aromatic ring-opening. Recently, a cytochrome P450 system, GcoAB, was discovered to demethylate guaiacol (2-methoxyphenol), which can be produced from coniferyl alcohol-derived lignin, to form catechol. However, native GcoAB has minimal ability to demethylate syringol (2,6-dimethoxyphenol), the analogous compound that can be produced from sinapyl alcohol-derived lignin. Despite the abundance of sinapyl alcohol-based lignin in plants, no pathway for syringol catabolism has been reported to date. Here we used structure-guided protein engineering to enable microbial syringol utilization with GcoAB. Specifically, a phenylalanine residue (GcoA-F169) interferes with the binding of syringol in the active site, and on mutation to smaller amino acids, efficient syringol O -demethylation is achieved. Crystallography indicates that syringol adopts a productive binding pose in the variant, which molecular dynamics simulations trace to the elimination of steric clash between the highly flexible side chain of GcoA-F169 and the additional methoxy group of syringol. Finally, we demonstrate in vivo syringol turnover in Pseudomonas putida KT2440 with the GcoA-F169A variant. Taken together, our findings highlight the significant potential and plasticity of cytochrome P450 aromatic O -demethylases in the biological conversion of lignin-derived aromatic compounds. 
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  3. Abstract

    Microbial aromatic catabolism offers a promising approach to convert lignin, a vast source of renewable carbon, into useful products. Aryl-O-demethylation is an essential biochemical reaction to ultimately catabolize coniferyl and sinapyl lignin-derived aromatic compounds, and is often a key bottleneck for both native and engineered bioconversion pathways. Here, we report the comprehensive characterization of a promiscuous P450 aryl-O-demethylase, consisting of a cytochrome P450 protein from the family CYP255A (GcoA) and a three-domain reductase (GcoB) that together represent a new two-component P450 class. Though originally described as converting guaiacol to catechol, we show that this system efficiently demethylates both guaiacol and an unexpectedly wide variety of lignin-relevant monomers. Structural, biochemical, and computational studies of this novel two-component system elucidate the mechanism of its broad substrate specificity, presenting it as a new tool for a critical step in biological lignin conversion.

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