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J Biol Chem. 2012 Nov 16;287(47):39412-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.413518. Epub 2012 Oct 4.

The Bacillus subtilis chemoreceptor McpC senses multiple ligands using two discrete mechanisms.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.


Bacillus subtilis can perform chemotaxis toward all 20 L-amino acids normally found in proteins. Loss of a single chemoreceptor, McpC, was previously found to reduce chemotaxis to 19 of these amino acids. In this study, we investigated the amino acid-sensing mechanism of McpC. We show that McpC alone can support chemotaxis to 17 of these amino acids to varying degrees. Eleven amino acids were found to directly bind the amino-terminal sensing domain of McpC in vitro. Sequence analysis indicates that the McpC sensing domain exhibits a dual Per-Arnt-Sim (PAS) domain structure. Using this structure as a guide, we were able to isolate mutants that suggest that four amino acids (arginine, glutamine, lysine, and methionine) are sensed by an indirect mechanism. We identified four candidate binding lipoproteins associated with amino acid transporters that may function in indirect sensing: ArtP, GlnH, MetQ, and YckB. ArtP was found to bind arginine and lysine; GlnH, glutamine; MetQ, methionine; and YckB, tryptophan. In addition, we found that ArtP, MetQ, and YckB bind the sensing domain of McpC, suggesting that the three participate in the indirect sensing of arginine, lysine, methionine, and possibly tryptophan as well. Taken together, these results further our understanding of amino acid chemotaxis in B. subtilis and gain insight into how a single chemoreceptor is able to sense many amino acids.

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