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Design of a Histidine Kinase FRET Sensor to Detect Complex Signal Integration within Living Bacteria

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journal contribution
posted on 16.06.2020 by Samuel W. Duvall, W. Seth Childers
Histidine kinases (HK) switch between conformational states that promote kinase and phosphatase activities to regulate diverse cellular processes. Past studies have shown that these functional states can display heterogeneity between cells in microbial communities and can vary at the subcellular level. Methods to track and correlate the kinase conformational state with the phenotypic response of living bacteria cells will offer new opportunities to interrogate bacterial signaling mechanisms. As a proof of principle, we incorporated both mClover3 (donor) and mRuby3 (acceptor) fluorescent proteins into the Caulobacter crescentus cell-cycle HK CckA as an in vivo fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) sensor to detect these structural changes. Our engineered FRET sensor was responsive to CckA-specific input signals and detected subcellular changes in CckA signal integration that occurs as cells develop. We demonstrated the potential of using the CckA FRET sensor as an in vivo screening tool for HK inhibitors. In summary, we have developed a new HK FRET sensor design strategy that can be adopted to monitor in vivo changes for interrogation of a broad range of signaling mechanisms in living bacteria.

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