Attractant binding induces distinct structural changes to the polar and lateral signaling clusters in Bacillus subtilis chemotaxis

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Bacteria employ a modified two-component system for chemotaxis, where the receptors form ternary complexes with CheA histidine kinases and CheW adaptor proteins. These complexes are arranged in semi-ordered arrays clustered predominantly at the cell poles. The prevailing models assume that these arrays are static and reorganize only locally in response to attractant binding. Recent studies have shown, however, that these structures may in fact be much more fluid. We investigated the localization of the chemotaxis signaling arrays in Bacillus subtilis using immunofluorescence and live cell fluorescence microscopy. We found that the receptors were localized in clusters at the poles in most cells. However, when the cells were exposed to attractant, the number exhibiting polar clusters was reduced roughly 2-fold, whereas the number exhibiting lateral clusters distinct from the poles increased significantly. These changes in receptor clustering were reversible as polar localization was reestablished in adapted cells. We also investigated the dynamic localization of CheV, a hybrid protein consisting of an N-terminal Che W-like adaptor domain and a C-terminal response regulator domain that is known to be phosphorylated by CheA, using immunofluorescence. Interestingly, we found that CheV was localized predominantly at lateral clusters in unstimulated cells. However, upon exposure to attractant, CheV was found to be predominantly localized to the cell poles. Moreover, changes in CheV localization are phosphorylation-dependent. Collectively, these results suggest that the chemotaxis signaling arrays in B. subtilis are dynamic structures and that feedback loops involving phosphorylation may regulate the positioning of individual proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2587-2595
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 28 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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