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J Bacteriol. 2011 Aug;193(15):3851-62. doi: 10.1128/JB.05175-11. Epub 2011 Jun 10.

Coevolution of ABC transporters and two-component regulatory systems as resistance modules against antimicrobial peptides in Firmicutes Bacteria.

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Department of Biology I, Microbiology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.


In Firmicutes bacteria, ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters have been recognized as important resistance determinants against antimicrobial peptides. Together with neighboring two-component systems (TCSs), which regulate their expression, they form specific detoxification modules. Both the transport permease and sensor kinase components show unusual domain architecture: the permeases contain a large extracellular domain, while the sensor kinases lack an obvious input domain. One of the best-characterized examples is the bacitracin resistance module BceRS-BceAB of Bacillus subtilis. Strikingly, in this system, the ABC transporter and TCS have an absolute mutual requirement for each other in both sensing of and resistance to bacitracin, suggesting a novel mode of signal transduction in which the transporter constitutes the actual sensor. We identified over 250 such BceAB-like ABC transporters in the current databases. They occurred almost exclusively in Firmicutes bacteria, and 80% of the transporters were associated with a BceRS-like TCS. Phylogenetic analyses of the permease and sensor kinase components revealed a tight evolutionary correlation. Our findings suggest a direct regulatory interaction between the ABC transporters and TCSs, mediating communication between both components. Based on their observed coclustering and conservation of response regulator binding sites, we could identify putative corresponding two-component systems for transporters lacking a regulatory system in their immediate neighborhood. Taken together, our results show that these types of ABC transporters and TCSs have coevolved to form self-sufficient detoxification modules against antimicrobial peptides, widely distributed among Firmicutes bacteria.

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