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Chem Biol. 2000 Jan;7(1):65-76.

Xenognosin sensing in virulence: is there a phenol receptor in Agrobacterium tumefaciens?

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Plant Sciences Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-1018, USA.



The mechanisms of signal perception and transmission in the 'two-component' autokinase transmitters/response regulators are poorly understood, especially considering the vast number of such systems now known. Virulence induction from the tumor-inducing (Ti) plasmid of Agrobacterium tumefaciens represents one of the best understood systems with regard to the chemistry of the activating signal, and yet the existing data does not support a receptor-mediated perception event for the xenognostic phenols.


Here we provide the first conclusive evidence that a specific receptor must be involved in xenognostic phenol perception, detail structural requirements of the xenognosins necessary for perception by this receptor, and develop a genetic strategy that demonstrates critical components of the phenol recognition system are not encoded on the Ti plasmid.


Although the basic elements of the two-component system required for phenol-mediated induction of virulence gene expression are encoded on the Ti plasmid, they are dependent on the chromosomal background for even the very first stage of signal perception. This discovery suggests a curious evolutionary history, and also provides functional insight into the mechanisms of two-component signal detection and transmission in general.

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