This study presents two lines of genetic evidence consistent with the premise that CheW, a cytoplasmic component of the chemotactic signaling system of Escherichia coli, interacts directly with Tsr, the membrane-bound serine chemoreceptor. (i) We demonstrated phenotypic suppression between 10 missense mutant CheW proteins and six missense mutant Tsr proteins. Most of these mutant proteins had leaky chemotaxis defects and were partially dominant, implying relatively minor functional alterations. Their suppression pattern was allele specific, suggesting that the mutant proteins have compensatory conformational changes at sites of interactive contact. (ii) We isolated five partially dominant CheW mutations and found that four of them were similar or identical to the suppressible CheW mutant proteins. This implies that there are only a few ways in which CheW function can be altered to produce dominant defects and that dominance is mediated through interactions of CheW with Tsr. The amino acid replacements in these mutant proteins were inferred from their DNA sequence changes. The CheW mutations were located in five regularly spaced clusters in the first two-thirds of the protein. The Tsr mutations were located in a highly conserved region in the middle of the cytoplasmic signaling domain. The hydrophobic moments, overall hydrophobicities, and predicted secondary structures of the mutant segments were consistent with the possibility that they are located at the surface of the CheW and Tsr molecules and represent the contact sites between these two proteins
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