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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 1999 Mar;63(1):230-62.

Osmosensing by bacteria: signals and membrane-based sensors.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.jwood@uoguelph.ca

Abstract

Bacteria can survive dramatic osmotic shifts. Osmoregulatory responses mitigate the passive adjustments in cell structure and the growth inhibition that may ensue. The levels of certain cytoplasmic solutes rise and fall in response to increases and decreases, respectively, in extracellular osmolality. Certain organic compounds are favored over ions as osmoregulatory solutes, although K+ fluxes are intrinsic to the osmoregulatory response for at least some organisms. Osmosensors must undergo transitions between "off" and "on" conformations in response to changes in extracellular water activity (direct osmosensing) or resulting changes in cell structure (indirect osmosensing). Those located in the cytoplasmic membranes and nucleoids of bacteria are positioned for indirect osmosensing. Cytoplasmic membrane-based osmosensors may detect changes in the periplasmic and/or cytoplasmic solvent by experiencing changes in preferential interactions with particular solvent constituents, cosolvent-induced hydration changes, and/or macromolecular crowding. Alternatively, the membrane may act as an antenna and osmosensors may detect changes in membrane structure. Cosolvents may modulate intrinsic biomembrane strain and/or topologically closed membrane systems may experience changes in mechanical strain in response to imposed osmotic shifts. The osmosensory mechanisms controlling membrane-based K+ transporters, transcriptional regulators, osmoprotectant transporters, and mechanosensitive channels intrinsic to the cytoplasmic membrane of Escherichia coli are under intensive investigation. The osmoprotectant transporter ProP and channel MscL act as osmosensors after purification and reconstitution in proteoliposomes. Evidence that sensor kinase KdpD receives multiple sensory inputs is consistent with the effects of K+ fluxes on nucleoid structure, cellular energetics, cytoplasmic ionic strength, and ion composition as well as on cytoplasmic osmolality. Thus, osmoregulatory responses accommodate and exploit the effects of individual cosolvents on cell structure and function as well as the collective contribution of cosolvents to intracellular osmolality.

PMID:
10066837
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC98963
Free PMC Article
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