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Mol Microbiol. 1997 Dec;26(5):1083-96.

Evidence for two chemosensory pathways in Rhodobacter sphaeroides.

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Department of Biochemistry, Oxford University, UK.


In contrast to enteric bacteria, chemotaxis in Rhodobacter sphaeroides requires transport and partial metabolism of chemoattractants. Although a chemotaxis operon has been identified containing homologues of the enteric cheA, cheW, cheR genes and two homologues of the cheY gene, deletion of the entire chemotaxis operon had only minor effects on chemotactic behaviour under the conditions tested. Responses to sugars were enhanced in tethered cells but in all other chemotaxis assays behaviour of the operon deletion mutant was wild type. The mutant also showed wild-type responses to weak organic acids such as acetate and propionate, the dominant chemoattractants for this organism, under all conditions. This is in direct contrast to the enterics in which CheA, CheW and CheY are absolutely essential for taxis to PTS sugars, oxygen and MCP-dependent chemoeffectors. The operon deletion mutant was subjected to Tn5 transposon mutagenesis and new mutants selected using a chemotaxis and phototaxis screen. One mutant, JPA203, was non-chemotactic on swarm plates and showed inverted responses when tethered or subjected to changes in light intensity. Characterization of the Tn5 insertion in JPA203 identified a second chemotaxis operon in R. sphaeroides that contains homologues of cheY, cheA and cheR, the first homologue of cheB and two homologues of cheW. The new genes were labelled orf10, cheY(III), cheA(II) cheW(II), cheW(III), cheR(II), cheB and tlpC. When introduced into a wild-type background, deletion of cheA(II) produced a chemotaxis minus phenotype in R. sphaeroides, suggesting that cheA(II) forms part of a dominant chemotactic pathway, whereas the earlier identified operon plays only a minor role under laboratory conditions. The data presented here support the existence of two chemosensory pathways in R. sphaeroides, a feature that so far is unique in bacterial chemotaxis.

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