Structure, function and regulation of the DNA-binding protein Dps and its role in acid and oxidative stress resistance in Escherichia coli: a review


Young Min Kwon, 1260 W. Maple Ave, O-219, Department of Poultry Science, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA. E-mail:


Dps, the DNA-binding protein from starved cells, is capable of providing protection to cells during exposure to severe environmental assaults; including oxidative stress and nutritional deprivation. The structure and function of Dps have been the subject of numerous studies and have been examined in several bacteria that possess Dps or a structural/functional homologue of the protein. Additionally, the involvement of Dps in stress resistance has been researched extensively as well. The ability of Dps to provide multifaceted protection is based on three intrinsic properties of the protein: DNA binding, iron sequestration, and its ferroxidase activity. These properties also make Dps extremely important in iron and hydrogen peroxide detoxification and acid resistance as well. Regulation of Dps expression in E. coli is complex and partially dependent on the physiological state of the cell. Furthermore, it is proposed that Dps itself plays a role in gene regulation during starvation, ultimately making the cell more resistant to cytotoxic assaults by controlling the expression of genes necessary for (or deleterious to) stress resistance. The current review focuses on the aforementioned properties of Dps in E. coli, its prototypic organism. The consequences of elucidating the protective mechanisms of this protein are far-reaching, as Dps homologues have been identified in over 1000 distantly related bacteria and Archaea. Moreover, the prevalence of Dps and Dps-like proteins in bacteria suggests that protection involving DNA and iron sequestration is crucial and widespread in prokaryotes.