DevS is the sensor of the DevS-DevR two-component regulatory system of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This system is thought to be responsible for initiating entrance of this bacterium into the nonreplicating persistent state in response to NO and anaerobiosis. DevS is modular in nature and consists of two N-terminal GAF domains and C-terminal histidine kinase and ATPase domains. The first GAF domain (GAF A) binds heme, and this cofactor is thought to be responsible for sensing environmental stimuli, but the function of the second GAF domain (GAF B) is unknown. Here we report the RR characterization of full-length DevS (FL DevS) as well as truncated proteins consisting of the single GAF A domain (GAF A DevS) and both GAF domains (GAF A/B) in both oxidation states and bound to the exogenous ligands CO, NO, and O2. The results indicate that the GAF B domain increases the specificity with which the distal heme pocket of the GAF A domain interacts with CO and NO as opposed to O2. Specifically, while two comparable populations of CO and NO adducts are observed in GAF A DevS, only one of these two conformers is present in significant concentration in the GAF A/B and FL DevS proteins. In contrast, hydrogen bond interactions at the bound oxygen in the oxy complexes are conserved in all DevS constructs. The comparison of the data obtained with the O2 complexes with those of the CO and NO complexes suggests a model for ligand discrimination which relies on a specific hydrogen-bonding network with bound O2. It also suggests that interactions between the two GAF domains are responsible for transduction of structural changes at the heme domain that accompany ligand binding/ dissociation to modulate activity at the kinase domain.
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