Characterization of Opposing Responses to Phenol by Bacillus subtilis Chemoreceptors

Girija A. Bodhankar, Payman Tohidifar, Zachary L. Foust, George W. Ordal, Christopher V. Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacillus subtilis employs 10 chemoreceptors to move in response to chemicals in its environment. While the sensing mechanisms have been determined for many attractants, little is known about the sensing mechanisms for repellents. In this work, we investigated phenol chemotaxis in B. subtilis. Phenol is an attractant at low, micromolar concentrations and a repellent at high, millimolar concentrations. McpA was found to be the principal chemoreceptor governing the repellent response to phenol and other related aromatic compounds. In addition, the chemoreceptors McpC and HemAT were found to govern the attractant response to phenol and related compounds. Using chemoreceptor chimeras, McpA was found to sense phenol using its signaling domain rather than its sensing domain. These observations were substantiated in vitro, where direct binding of phenol to the signaling domain of McpA was observed using saturation transfer difference nuclear magnetic resonance. These results further advance our understanding of B. subtilis chemotaxis and further demonstrate that the signaling domain of B. subtilis chemoreceptors can directly sense chemoeffectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • NMR
  • chemotaxis
  • phenol
  • repellent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology


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