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Biochemistry. 2007 Nov 13;46(45):12979-96. Epub 2007 Oct 16.

Escherichia coli PII signal transduction protein controlling nitrogen assimilation acts as a sensor of adenylate energy charge in vitro.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0606, USA.


PII signal transduction proteins are among the most widely distributed signaling proteins in nature, controlling nitrogen assimilation in organisms ranging from bacteria to higher plants. PII proteins integrate signals of cellular metabolic status and interact with and regulate receptors that are signal transduction enzymes or key metabolic enzymes. Prior work with Escherichia coli PII showed that all signal transduction functions of PII required ATP binding to PII and that ATP binding was synergistic with the binding of alpha-ketoglutarate to PII. Furthermore, alpha-ketoglutarate, a cellular signal of nitrogen and carbon status, was observed to strongly regulate PII functions. Here, we show that in reconstituted signal transduction systems, ADP had a dramatic effect on PII regulation of two E. coli PII receptors, ATase, and NRII (NtrB), and on PII uridylylation by the signal transducing UTase/UR. ADP acted antagonistically to alpha-ketoglutarate, that is, low adenylylate energy charge acted to diminish signaling of nitrogen limitation. By individually studying the interactions that occur in the reconstituted signal transduction systems, we observed that essentially all PII and PII-UMP interactions were influenced by ADP. Our experiments also suggest that under certain conditions, the three nucleotide binding sites of the PII trimer may be occupied by combinations of ATP and ADP. In the aggregate, our results show that PII proteins, in addition to serving as sensors of alpha-ketoglutarate, have the capacity to serve as direct sensors of the adenylylate energy charge.

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