CarD is an essential RNA polymerase (RNAP) interacting protein in Mycobacterium tuberculosis that stimulates formation of RNAP-promoter open complexes. CarD plays a complex role in M. tuberculosis growth and virulence that is not fully understood. Therefore, to gain further insight into the role of CarD in M. tuberculosis growth and virulence, we determined the effect of increasing the affinity of CarD for RNAP. Using site-directed mutagenesis guided by crystal structures of CarD bound to RNAP, we identified amino acid substitutions that increase the affinity of CarD for RNAP. Using these substitutions, we show that increasing the affinity of CarD for RNAP increases the stability of the CarD protein in M. tuberculosis. In addition, we show that increasing the affinity of CarD for RNAP increases the growth rate in M. tuberculosis without affecting 16S rRNA levels. We further show that increasing the affinity of CarD for RNAP reduces M. tuberculosis virulence in a mouse model of infection despite the improved growth rate in vitro. Our findings suggest that the CarD-RNAP interaction protects CarD from proteolytic degradation in M. tuberculosis, establish that growth rate and rRNA levels can be uncoupled in M. tuberculosis and demonstrate that the strength of the CarD-RNAP interaction has been finely tuned to optimize virulence.
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis
- Protein stability
- Proteinprotein interactions
- RNA polymerase
- Transcription initiation factor