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J Bacteriol. 2001 May;183(9):2795-802.

Dissection of the functional and structural domains of phosphorelay histidine kinase A of Bacillus subtilis.

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Division of Cellular Biology, Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The initiation of sporulation in Bacillus subtilis results primarily from phosphoryl group input into the phosphorelay by histidine kinases, the major kinase being kinase A. Kinase A is active as a homodimer, the protomer of which consists of an approximately 400-amino-acid N-terminal putative signal-sensing region and a 200-amino-acid C-terminal autokinase. On the basis of sequence similarity, the N-terminal region may be subdivided into three PAS domains: A, B, and C, located from the N- to the C-terminal end. Proteolysis experiments and two-hybrid analyses indicated that dimerization of the N-terminal region is accomplished through the PAS-B/PAS-C region of the molecule, whereas the most amino-proximal PAS-A domain is not dimerized. N-terminal deletions generated with maltose binding fusion proteins showed that an intact PAS-A domain is very important for enzymatic activity. Amino acid substitution mutations in PAS-A as well as PAS-C affected the in vivo activity of kinase A, suggesting that both PAS domains are required for signal sensing. The C-terminal autokinase, when produced without the N-terminal region, was a dimer, probably because of the dimerization required for formation of the four-helix-bundle phosphotransferase domain. The truncated autokinase was virtually inactive in autophosphorylation with ATP, whereas phosphorylation of the histidine of the phosphotransfer domain by back reactions from Spo0F~P appeared normal. The phosphorylated autokinase lost the ability to transfer its phosphoryl group to ADP, however. The N-terminal region appears to be essential both for signal sensing and for maintaining the correct conformation of the autokinase component domains.

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