Motile bacteria sense chemical gradients with transmembrane receptors organised in supramolecular signalling arrays. Understanding stimulus detection and transmission at the molecular level requires precise structural characterisation of the array building block known as a core signalling unit. Here we introduce an Escherichia coli strain that forms small minicells possessing extended and highly ordered chemosensory arrays. We use cryo-electron tomography and subtomogram averaging to provide a three-dimensional map of a complete core signalling unit, with visible densities corresponding to the HAMP and periplasmic domains. This map, combined with previously determined high resolution structures and molecular dynamics simulations, yields a molecular model of the transmembrane core signalling unit and enables spatial localisation of its individual domains. Our work thus offers a solid structural basis for the interpretation of a wide range of existing data and the design of further experiments to elucidate signalling mechanisms within the core signalling unit and larger array.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)