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J Bacteriol. 2004 Oct;186(19):6595-604.

An energy taxis transducer promotes root colonization by Azospirillum brasilense.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine, Loma Linda University, California, USA.

Abstract

Motility responses triggered by changes in the electron transport system are collectively known as energy taxis. In Azospirillum brasilense, energy taxis was shown to be the principal form of locomotor control. In the present study, we have identified a novel chemoreceptor-like protein, named Tlp1, which serves as an energy taxis transducer. The Tlp1 protein is predicted to have an N-terminal periplasmic region and a cytoplasmic C-terminal signaling module homologous to those of other chemoreceptors. The predicted periplasmic region of Tlp1 comprises a conserved domain that is found in two types of microbial sensory receptors: chemotaxis transducers and histidine kinases. However, the function of this domain is currently unknown. We characterized the behavior of a tlp1 mutant by a series of spatial and temporal gradient assays. The tlp1 mutant is deficient in (i) chemotaxis to several rapidly oxidizable substrates, (ii) taxis to terminal electron acceptors (oxygen and nitrate), and (iii) redox taxis. Taken together, the data strongly suggest that Tlp1 mediates energy taxis in A. brasilense. Using qualitative and quantitative assays, we have also demonstrated that the tlp1 mutant is impaired in colonization of plant roots. This finding supports the hypothesis that energy taxis and therefore bacterial metabolism might be key factors in determining host specificity in Azospirillum-grass associations.

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