Haem-containing proteins such as haemoglobin and myoglobin play an essential role in oxygen transport and storage. Comparison of the amino-acid sequences of globins from Bacteria and Eukarya suggests that they share an early common ancestor, even though the proteins perform different functions in these two kingdoms. Until now, no members of the globin family have been found in the third kingdom, Archaea. Recent studies of biological signalling in the Bacteria and Eukarya have revealed a new class of haem-containing proteins that serve as sensors. Until now, no haem-based sensor has been described in the Archaea. Here we report the first myoglobin-like, haem- containing protein in the Archaea, and the first haem-based aerotactic transducer in the Bacteria (termed HemAT-Hs for the archaeon Halobacterium salinarum, and HemAT-Bs for Bacillus subtilis). These proteins exhibit spectral properties similar to those of myoglobin and trigger aerotactic responses.
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