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Mol Microbiol. 1998 May;28(4):683-90.

In search of higher energy: metabolism-dependent behaviour in bacteria.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine, Loma Linda University, CA 92350, USA.


Bacteria use different strategies to navigate to niches where environmental factors are favourable for growth. Chemotaxis is a behavioural response mediated by specific receptors that sense the concentration of chemicals in the environment. Recently, a new type of sensor has been described in Escherichia coli that responds to changes in cellular energy (redox) levels. This sensor, Aer, guides the bacteria to environments that support maximal energy levels in the cells. A variety of stimuli, such as oxygen, alternative electron acceptors, light, redox carriers that interact with the electron transport system and metabolized carbon sources, effect changes in the cellular energy (redox) levels. These changes are detected by Aer and by the serine chemotaxis receptor Tsr and are transduced into signals that elicit appropriate behavioural responses. Diverse environmental signals from Aer and chemotaxis receptors converge and integrate at the level of the CheA histidine kinase. Energy sensing is widespread in bacteria, and it is now evident that a variety of signal transduction strategies are used for the metabolism-dependent behaviours. The occurrence of putative energy-sensing domains in proteins from cells ranging from Archaea to humans indicates the importance of this function for all living systems.

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