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Mol Microbiol. 2000 May;36(4):806-16.

PAS domain residues involved in signal transduction by the Aer redox sensor of Escherichia coli.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, 92350 USA.


PAS domains sense oxygen, redox potential and light, and are implicated in behaviour, circadian rhythmicity, development and metabolic regulation. Although PAS domains are widespread in archaea, bacteria and eukaryota, the mechanism of signal transduction has been elucidated only for the bacterial photo sensor PYP and oxygen sensor FixL. We investigated the signalling mechanism in the PAS domain of Aer, the redox potential sensor and aerotaxis transducer in Escherichia coli. Forty-two residues in Aer were substituted using cysteine-replacement mutagenesis. Eight mutations resulted in a null phenotype for aerotaxis, the behavioural response to oxygen. Four of them also led to the loss of the non-covalently bound FAD cofactor. Three mutant Aer proteins, N34C, F66C and N85C, transmitted a constant signal-on bias. One mutation, Y111C, inverted signalling by the transducer so that positive stimuli produced negative signals and vice versa. Residues critical for signalling were mapped onto a three-dimensional model of the Aer PAS domain, and an FAD-binding site and 'active site' for signal transduction are proposed.

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