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Biochemistry. 2000 Aug 8;39(31):9486-93.

Attractant regulation of the aspartate receptor-kinase complex: limited cooperative interactions between receptors and effects of the receptor modification state.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado at Boulder, 80309-0215, USA.


The manner by which the bacterial chemotaxis system responds to a wide range of attractant concentrations remains incompletely understood. In principle, positive cooperativity between chemotaxis receptors could explain the ability of bacteria to respond to extremely low attractant concentrations. By utilizing an in vitro receptor-coupled kinase assay, the attractant-dependent response curve has been measured for the Salmonella typhimurium aspartate chemoreceptor. The attractant chosen, alpha-methyl aspartate, was originally used to quantitate high receptor sensitivity at low attractant concentrations by Segall, Block, and Berg [(1986) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 83, 8987-8991]. The attractant response curve exhibits limited positive cooperativity, yielding a Hill coefficient of 1.7-2.4, and this Hill coefficient is relatively independent of both the receptor modification state and the mole ratio of CheA to receptor. These results disfavor models in which there are strong cooperative interactions between large numbers of receptor dimers in an extensive receptor array. Instead, the results are consistent with cooperative interactions between a small number of coupled receptor dimers. Because the in vitro receptor-coupled kinase assay utilizes higher than native receptor densities arising from overexpression, the observed positive cooperativity may overestimate that present in native receptor populations. Such positive cooperativity between dimers is fully compatible with the negative cooperativity previously observed between the two symmetric ligand binding sites within a single dimer. The attractant affinity of the aspartate receptor is found to depend on the modification state of its covalent adaptation sites. Increasing the the level of modification decreases the apparent attractant affinity at least 10-fold in the in vitro receptor-coupled kinase assay. This observation helps explain the ability of the chemotaxis pathway to respond to a broad range of attractant concentrations in vivo.

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