Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Janina P. Lewis


Porphyromonas gingivalis, a Gram negative anaerobe implicated in the progression of periodontal disease, is capable of surviving and causing infection despite high levels of reactive nitrogen species found in the oral cavity due to its efficient nitrosative stress response. HcpR is an important sensor-regulator that plays a vital step in the initiation of the nitrosative stress response in many Gram negative anaerobic bacteria. We employ a combination of X-ray crystallography, SAXS, resonance Raman spectroscopy, UV-Vis spectroscopy, and molecular biology techniques to better understand this key regulator. Knockout of the hcpR gene in W83 P. gingivalis results in the inability of the bacteria to grow in physiological concentrations of nitrite and complementation of hcpR using the novel plasmid Pg108 rescues this phenotype. HcpR causes a drastic, dose dependent upregulation of PG0893, a gene coding for a putative NO reductase, when exposed to nitrite or nitric oxide. Full transcriptome sequencing reveals that hcp is the only significantly upregulated gene when P. gingivalis is exposed to nitrite and knockout of hcp resulted in a phenotype that is similar to that of the hcpR deficient strain. HcpR directly regulates the expression of hcp via direct binding to an inverted repeat sequence in the promoter region of the hcp gene. We present a 2.6 Å crystal structure of the N-terminal sensing domain of HcpR and show that it is FNR-CRP regulator. A putative hydrophobic heme binding pocket was identified in the junction between the N-terminal domain and the dimerization helix. Mutation of two methionine residues (Met68 and Met145) in this pocket abrogates activation of HcpR thus verifying the binding site. Heme bound to HcpR exhibits heme iron as a hexa-coordinate system in the absence of nitric oxide (NO) and upon nitrosylation transitions to a penta-coordinated system. Finally, Small Angle X-ray Scattering experiments of the full length HcpR reveal that the C-terminal DNA binding domain of HcpR has a high degree of interdomain flexibility.


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Available for download on Saturday, November 26, 2022