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J Bacteriol. Dec 1996; 178(23): 6752–6758.
PMCID: PMC178571

Chemotactic signaling by the P1 phosphorylation domain liberated from the CheA histidine kinase of Escherichia coli.

Abstract

CheA is a histidine kinase central to the signal transduction pathway for chemotaxis in Escherichia coli. CheA autophosphorylates at His-48, with ATP as the phosphodonor, and then donates its phosphoryl groups to two aspartate autokinases, CheY and CheB. Phospho-CheY controls the flagellar motors, whereas phospho-CheB participates in sensory adaptation. Polypeptides encompassing the N-terminal P1 domain of CheA can be transphosphorylated in vitro by the CheA catalytic domain and yet have no deleterious effect on chemotactic ability when expressed at high levels in wild-type cells. To find out why, we examined the effects of a purified P1 fragment, CheA[1-149], on CheA-related signaling activities in vitro and devised in vivo assays for those same activities. Although readily phosphorylated by CheA[260-537], the CheA catalytic domain, CheA[1-149], was a poor substrate for transphosphorylation by full-length CheA molecules, implying that the resident P1 domain monopolizes the CheA catalytic center. CheA-H48Q, a nonphosphorylatable mutant, failed to transphosphorylate CheA[1-149], suggesting that phosphorylation of the P1 domain in cis may alleviate the exclusion effect. In agreement with these findings, a 40-fold excess of CheA[1-149] fragments did not impair the CheA autophosphorylation reaction. CheA[1-149] did acquire phosphoryl groups via reversible phosphotransfer reactions with CheB and CheY molecules. An H48Q mutant of CheA[1-149] could not participate in these reactions, indicating that His-48 is probably the substrate site. The low level of efficiency of these phosphotransfer reactions and the inability of CheA[1-149] to interfere with CheA autophosphorylation most likely account for the failure of liberated P1 domains to jam chemotactic signaling in wild-type cells. However, an excess of CheA[1-149] fragments was able to support chemotactic signaling by P1-deficient cheA mutants, demonstrating that CheA[1-149] fragments have both transphosphorylation and phosphotransfer capability in vivo.

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Selected References

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