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The smaller of two overlapping cheA gene products is not essential for chemotaxis in Escherichia coli.

By H Sanatinia, E C Kofoid, T B Morrison and J S Parkinson


The cheA locus of Escherichia coli encodes two similar proteins, CheAL (654 amino acids) and CheAS (557 amino acids), which are made by initiating translation from different in-frame start sites [start(L) and start(S)]. CheAL plays an essential role in chemotactic signaling. It autophosphorylates at a histidine residue (His-48) and then donates this phosphate to response regulator proteins that modulate flagellar rotation and sensory adaptation. CheAS lacks the first 97 amino acids of CheAL, including the phosphorylation site at His-48. Although it is unable to autophosphorylate, CheAS can form heterodimers with mutant CheAL subunits to restore kinase function and chemoreceptor control of autophosphorylation activity. To determine whether these or other activities of CheAS are important for chemotaxis, we constructed cheA lesions that abrogated CheAS expression. Mutants in which the CheAS start codon was changed from methionine to isoleucine (M98I) or glutamine (M98Q) retained chemotactic ability, ranging from 50% (M98Q) to 80% (M98I) of wild-type function. These partial defects could not be alleviated by supplying CheAS from a specialized transducing phage, indicating that the lesions in CheAL--not the lack of CheAS--were responsible for the reduced chemotactic ability. In other respects, the behavior of the M98I mutant was essentially normal. Its flagellar rotation pattern was indistinguishable from wild type, and it exhibited wild-type detection thresholds and peak positions in capillary chemotaxis assays. The lack of any substantive defect in this start(S) mutant argues that CheAS makes a negligible contribution to chemotactic ability in the laboratory. Whether it has functional significance in other settings remains to be seen

Topics: Research Article
Year: 1995
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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