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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2004 Feb;96(2):774-83.

Signal transduction by heme-containing PAS-domain proteins.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390-9038, USA.


The most common physiological strategy for detecting the gases oxygen, carbon monoxide, and nitric oxide is signal transduction by heme-based sensors, a broad class of modular proteins in which a heme-binding domain governs the activity of a neighboring transmitter domain. Different structures are possible for the heme-binding domains in these sensors, but, so far, the Per-ARNT-Sim motif, or PAS domain, is the one most commonly encountered. Heme-binding PAS (heme-PAS) domains can accomplish ligand-dependent switching of a variety of partner domains, including histidine kinase, phosphodiesterase, and basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) DNA-binding modules. Proteins with heme-PAS domains occur in all kingdoms of life and are quite diverse in their physiological roles. Examples include the neuronal bHLH-PAS carbon monoxide sensor NPAS2 that is implicated in the mammalian circadian clock, the acetobacterial oxygen sensor AxPDEA1 that directs cellulose production, and the rhizobial oxygen sensor FixL, which governs nitrogen fixation. What factors determine the range of detection of these sensors? How do they transduce their signal? This review examines the recent advances in answering these questions.

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