Genome-Wide Chromatin Immunoprecipitation Sequencing Analysis Shows that WhiB Is a Transcription Factor That Cocontrols Its Regulon with WhiA To Initiate Developmental Cell Division in Streptomyces.

PMID 27094333


WhiB is the founding member of a family of proteins (the WhiB-like [Wbl] family) that carry a [4Fe-4S] iron-sulfur cluster and play key roles in diverse aspects of the biology of actinomycetes, including pathogenesis, antibiotic resistance, and the control of development. In Streptomyces, WhiB is essential for the process of developmentally controlled cell division that leads to sporulation. The biochemical function of Wbl proteins has been controversial; here, we set out to determine unambiguously if WhiB functions as a transcription factor using chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) in Streptomyces venezuelae. In the first demonstration of in vivo genome-wide Wbl binding, we showed that WhiB regulates the expression of key genes required for sporulation by binding upstream of ~240 transcription units. Strikingly, the WhiB regulon is identical to the previously characterized WhiA regulon, providing an explanation for the identical phenotypes of whiA and whiB mutants. Using ChIP-seq, we demonstrated that in vivo DNA binding by WhiA depends on WhiB and vice versa, showing that WhiA and WhiB function cooperatively to control expression of a common set of WhiAB target genes. Finally, we show that mutation of the cysteine residues that coordinate the [4Fe-4S] cluster in WhiB prevents DNA binding by both WhiB and WhiA in vivo. Despite the central importance of WhiB-like (Wbl) proteins in actinomycete biology, a conclusive demonstration of their biochemical function has been elusive, and they have been difficult to study, particularly in vitro, largely because they carry an oxygen-sensitive [4Fe-4S] cluster. Here we used genome-wide ChIP-seq to investigate the function of Streptomyces WhiB, the founding member of the Wbl family. The advantage of this approach is that the oxygen sensitivity of the [4Fe-4S] cluster becomes irrelevant once the protein has been cross-linked to DNA in vivo. Our data provide the most compelling in vivo evidence to date that WhiB, and, by extension, probably all Wbl proteins, function as transcription factors. Further, we show that WhiB does not act independently but rather coregulates its regulon of sporulation genes with a partner transcription factor, WhiA.