Changing the Specificity of a Bacterial Chemoreceptor

Department of Physics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Journal of Molecular Biology (Impact Factor: 4.33). 03/2006; 355(5):923-32. DOI: 10.1016/j.jmb.2005.11.025
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins are a family of receptors in bacteria that mediate chemotaxis to diverse signals. To explore the plasticity of these proteins, we have developed a simple method for selecting cells that swim to target attractants. The procedure is based on establishing a diffusive gradient in semi-soft agar plates and does not require that the attractant be metabolized or degraded. We have applied this method to select for variants of the Escherichia coli aspartate receptor, Tar, that have a new or improved response to different amino acids. We found that Tar can be readily mutated to respond to new chemical signals. However, the overall change in specificity depended on the target compound. A Tar variant that could detect cysteic acid still showed a strong sensitivity to aspartate, indicating that the new receptor had a broadened specificity relative to wild-type Tar. Tar variants that responded to phenylalanine or N-methyl aspartate, or that had an increased sensitivity to glutamate showed a strong decrease in their response to aspartate. In at least some of the cases, the maximal level of sensitivity that was obtained could not be attributed solely to substitutions within the binding pocket. The new tar alleles and the techniques described here provide a new approach for exploring the relationship between ligand binding and signal transduction by chemoreceptors and for engineering new receptors for applications in biotechnology.

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    • "A number of genes involved in the signaling cascade of bacterial chemotaxis were considerably up-regulated in expression when strain 6179 was grown in the presence of BZT. Among these, a gene coding for the methyl-accepting chemotaxis protein (MCP), a transmembrane protein involved in detection and transduction of extracellular sensory signals (Derr et al., 2006), showed increased expression of greater than 6-fold compared to the control . Likewise, the two-component system, cheA/cheY, which is involved in extracellular signal transduction through the bacterial cell (Dons et al., 2004), was also up-regulated, by factors of approximately 4-fold and 7-fold respectively. "
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    ABSTRACT: Listeria monocytogenes is a virulent food-borne pathogen most often associated with the consumption of "ready-to-eat" foods. The organism is a common contaminant of food processing plants where it may persist for extended periods of time. A commonly used approach for the control of Listeria monocytogenes in the processing environment is the application of biocides such as quaternary ammonium compounds. In this study, the transcriptomic response of a persistent strain of L. monocytogenes (strain 6179) on exposure to a sub-lethal concentration of the quaternary ammonium compound benzethonium chloride (BZT) was assessed. Using RNA-Seq, gene expression levels were quantified by sequencing the transcriptome of L. monocytogenes 6179 in the presence (4 ppm) and absence of BZT, and mapping each data set to the sequenced genome of strain 6179. Hundreds of differentially expressed genes were identified, and subsequent analysis suggested that many biological processes such as peptidoglycan biosynthesis, bacterial chemotaxis and motility, and carbohydrate uptake, were involved in the response of L. monocyotogenes to the presence of BZT. The information generated in this study further contributes to our understanding of the response of bacteria to environmental stress. In addition, this study demonstrates the importance of using the bacterium's own genome as a reference when analysing RNA-Seq data.
    Frontiers in Microbiology 02/2014; 5:68. DOI:10.3389/fmicb.2014.00068 · 3.99 Impact Factor
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    • "To evaluate the chemotactic behavior of the constructed strains, two methods were used: an assay on soft-agar plates containing a pre-established gradient of attractant (Derr et al, 2006), and a capillary assay in liquid media (Adler, 1973). For each designed strain, a corresponding strain was constructed that contained the same chemoreceptor plasmid (expressing Tar or TarPA) and a control plasmid lacking the gene for the enzyme. "
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    ABSTRACT: We have engineered the chemotaxis system of Escherichia coli to respond to molecules that are not attractants for wild-type cells. The system depends on an artificially introduced enzymatic activity that converts the target molecule into a ligand for an E. coli chemoreceptor, thereby enabling the cells to respond to the new attractant. Two systems were designed, and both showed robust chemotactic responses in semisolid and liquid media. The first incorporates an asparaginase enzyme and the native E. coli aspartate receptor to produce a response to asparagine; the second uses penicillin acylase and an engineered chemoreceptor for phenylacetic acid to produce a response to phenylacetyl glycine. In addition, by taking advantage of a 'hitchhiker' effect in which cells producing the ligand can induce chemotaxis of neighboring cells lacking enzymatic activity, we were able to design a more complex system that functions as a simple microbial consortium. The result effectively introduces a logical 'AND' into the system so that the population only swims towards the combined gradients of two attractants.
    Molecular Systems Biology 02/2009; 5(1):283. DOI:10.1038/msb.2009.41 · 10.87 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Environmental signals are sensed by membrane-spanning receptors that communicate with the cell interior. Bacterial chemoreceptors modulate the activity of the CheA kinase in response to binding of small ligands or upon interaction with substrate-bound periplasmic-binding proteins. The mechanism of signal transduction across the membrane is a displacement of the second transmembrane domain (TM2) a few angstroms toward the cytoplasm. This movement repositions a dynamic transmembrane helix relative to the plane of the cell membrane. The research presented in this dissertation investigated the contribution of TM2-membrane interactions to signaling by the aspartate chemoreceptor (Tar) of Escherichia coli. Aromatic residues that reside at the cytoplasmic polar-hydrophobic membrane interface (Trp-209 and Tyr-210) were found to play a significant role in regulating signaling by Tar. These interactions were subsequently manipulated to modulate the signaling properties of Tar. The baseline signaling state was shown to be incrementally altered by repositioning the Trp-209/Tyr-210 pair. To our knowledge, this is the first example of harnessing membrane-protein interactions to modulate the signal output of a transmembrane receptor in a controlled and predictable manner. Potential long-term applications include the use of analogous mutations to elucidate two-component signaling pathways, to engineer the signaling parameters of biosensors that incorporate chemoreceptors, and to predict the movement of dynamic transmembrane helices in silico.
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