HelR is a helicase-like protein that protects RNA polymerase from rifamycin antibiotics Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Rifamycin antibiotics such as rifampin are potent inhibitors of prokaryotic RNA polymerase (RNAP) used to treat tuberculosis and other bacterial infections. Although resistance arises in the clinic principally through mutations in RNAP, many bacteria possess highly specific enzyme-mediated resistance mechanisms that modify and inactivate rifamycins. The expression of these enzymes is controlled by a 19-bp cis-acting rifamycin-associated element (RAE). Guided by the presence of RAE sequences, we identify a helicase-like protein, HelR, in Streptomyces venezuelae that confers broad-spectrum rifamycin resistance. We show that HelR also promotes tolerance to rifamycins, enabling bacterial evasion of the toxic properties of these antibiotics. HelR forms a complex with RNAP and rescues transcription inhibition by displacing rifamycins from RNAP, thereby providing resistance by target protection . Furthermore, HelRs are broadly distributed in Actinobacteria, including several opportunistic Mycobacterial pathogens, offering yet another challenge for developing new rifamycin antibiotics.


  • Surette, Matthew D
  • Waglechner, Nicholas
  • Koteva, Kalinka
  • Wright, Gerard

publication date

  • September 2022