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J Bacteriol. 2006 Nov;188(21):7470-6. Epub 2006 Aug 25.

Evolution of transmembrane protein kinases implicated in coordinating remodeling of gram-positive peptidoglycan: inside versus outside.

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School of Medicine, University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, United Kingdom.


Members of a family of serine/threonine protein kinases (STPKs), unique to gram-positive bacteria, comprise an intracellular kinase domain and reiterated extracellular PASTA (for "penicillin-binding protein and serine/threonine kinase associated") domains. PASTA domains exhibit low affinity for beta-lactam antibiotics that are structurally similar to their likely normal ligands: stem peptides of unlinked peptidoglycan. The PASTA-domain STPKs are found in the actinobacteria and firmicutes and, as exemplified by PknB of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, they are functionally implicated in aspects of growth, cell division, and development. Whereas the kinase domains are well conserved, there is a wide divergence in the sequences of the multiple PASTA domains. Closer inspection reveals position-dependent evolution of individual PASTA domains: a domain at one position within a gene has a close phylogenetic relationship with a domain at a similar position in an orthologous gene, whereas neighboring domains have clearly diverged one from one another. A similar position-dependent relationship is demonstrated in the second family of proteins with multiple PASTA domains: the high-molecular-weight type II penicillin-binding protein (PBP2x) family. These transpeptidases are recruited to the division site by a localized pool of unlinked peptidoglycan. We infer that protein localization is guided by low-affinity interactions between structurally different unlinked peptidoglycan stem peptides and individual PASTA domains. The STPKs possess a greater multiplicity and diversity of PASTA domains, allowing interactions with a wider range of stem-peptide ligands. These interactions are believed to activate the intracellular kinase domain, allowing an STPK to coordinate peptidoglycan remodeling and reproduction of a complex cell wall structure.

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