Chemoreceptor Trg and osmosensor EnvZ of Escherichia coli share a common transmembrane organization but have essentially unrelated primary structures. We created a hybrid gene coding for a protein in which Trg contributed its periplasmic and transmembrane domains as well as a short cytoplasmic segment and EnvZ contributed its cytoplasmic kinase/phosphatase domain. Trz1 transduced recognition of sugar-occupied, ribose-binding protein by its periplasmic domain into activation of its cytoplasmic kinase/phosphatase domain as assessed in vivo by using an ompC-lacZ fusion gene. Functional coupling of sugar-binding protein recognition to kinase/phosphatase activity indicates shared features of intramolecular signalling in the two parent proteins. In combination with previous documentation of transduction of aspartate recognition by an analogous fusion protein created from chemoreceptor Tar and EnvZ, the data indicate a common mechanism of transmembrane signal transduction by chemoreceptors and EnvZ. Signalling through the fusion proteins implies functional interaction between heterologous domains, but the minimal sequence identity among relevant segments of EnvZ, Tar, and Trg indicates that the link does not require extensive, specific interactions among side chains. The few positions of identity in those three sequences cluster in transmembrane segment 1 and the short chemoreceptor sequence in the cytoplasmic part of the hybrid proteins. These regions may be particularly important in physical and functional coupling. The specific cellular conditions necessary to observe ligand-dependent activation of Trz1 can be understood in the context of the importance of phosphatase control in EnvZ signalling and limitations on maximal receptor occupancy in binding protein-mediated recognition
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