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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Feb;59(4):1317-26.

Minimal requirements for oxygen sensing by the aerotaxis receptor Aer.

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Division of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA.


The PAS and HAMP domain superfamilies are signal transduction modules found in all kingdoms of life. The Aer receptor, which contains both domains, initiates rapid behavioural responses to oxygen (aerotaxis) and other electron acceptors, guiding Escherichia coli to niches where it can generate optimal cellular energy. We used intragenic complementation to investigate the signal transduction pathway from the Aer PAS domain to the signalling domain. These studies showed that the HAMP domain of one monomer in the Aer dimer stabilized FAD binding to the PAS domain of the cognate monomer. In contrast, the signal transduction pathway was intra-subunit, involving the PAS and signalling domains from the same monomer. The minimal requirements for signalling were investigated in heterodimers containing a full-length and truncated monomer. Either the PAS or signalling domains could be deleted from the non-signalling subunit of the heterodimer, but removing 16 residues from the C-terminus of the signalling subunit abolished aerotaxis. Although both HAMP domains were required for aerotaxis, signalling was not disrupted by missense mutations in the HAMP domain from the signalling subunit. Possible models for Aer signal transduction are compared.

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