Negative supercoiling by DNA gyrase is essential for maintaining chromosomal compaction, transcriptional programming, and genetic integrity in bacteria. Questions remain as to how gyrases from different species have evolved profound differences in their kinetics, efficiency, and extent of negative supercoiling. To explore this issue, we analyzed homology-directed mutations in the C-terminal, DNA-wrapping domain of the GyrA subunit of Escherichia coli gyrase (the 'CTD'). The addition or removal of select, conserved basic residues markedly impacts both nucleotide-dependent DNA wrapping and supercoiling by the enzyme. Weakening CTD-DNA interactions slows supercoiling, impairs DNA-dependent ATP hydrolysis, and limits the extent of DNA supercoiling, while simultaneously enhancing decatenation and supercoil relaxation. Conversely, strengthening DNA wrapping does not result in a more extensively supercoiled DNA product, but partially uncouples ATP turnover from strand passage, manifesting in futile cycling. Our findings indicate that the catalytic cycle of E. coli gyrase operates at high thermodynamic efficiency, and that the stability of DNA wrapping by the CTD provides one limit to DNA supercoil introduction, beyond which strand passage competes with ATP-dependent supercoil relaxation. These results highlight a means by which gyrase can evolve distinct homeostatic supercoiling setpoints in a species-specific manner.
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