American Chemical Society
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CheA Kinase of Bacterial Chemotaxis:  Chemical Mapping of Four Essential Docking Sites

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journal contribution
posted on 2006-07-25, 00:00 authored by Aaron S. Miller, Susy C. Kohout, Kaitlyn A. Gilman, Joseph J. Falke
The chemotaxis pathway of Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium is the paradigm for the ubiquitous class of 2-component signaling pathways in prokaryotic organisms. Chemosensing begins with the binding of a chemical attractant to a transmembrane receptor on the cell surface. The resulting transmembrane signal regulates a cytoplasmic, multiprotein signaling complex that controls cellular swimming behavior by generating a diffusible phosphoprotein. The minimal functional unit of this signaling complex, termed the core complex, consists of the transmembrane receptor, the coupling protein CheW, and the histidine kinase CheA. Though the structures of individual components are largely known and the core complex can be functionally reconstituted, the architecture of the assembled core complex has remained elusive. To probe this architecture, the present study has utilized an enhanced version of the protein-interactions-by-cysteine-modification method (PICM-β) to map out docking surfaces on CheA essential for kinase activity and for core complex assembly. The approach employed a library of 70 single, engineered cysteine residues, scattered uniformly over the surfaces of the five CheA domains in a cysteine-free CheA background. These surface Cys residues were further modified by the sulfhydryl-specific alkylating agent, 5-fluorescein-maleimide (5FM). The functional effects of individual Cys and 5FM-Cys surface modifications were measured by kinase assays of CheA activity in both the free and core complex-associated states, and by direct binding assays of CheA associations with CheW and the receptor. The results define (i) two mutual docking surfaces on the CheA substrate and catalytic domains essential for the association of these domains during autophosphorylation, (ii) a docking surface on the CheA regulatory domain essential for CheW binding, and (iii) a large docking surface encompassing regions of the CheA dimerization, catalytic, and regulatory domains proposed to bind the receptor. To test the generality of these findings, a CheA sequence alignment was analyzed, revealing that the newly identified docking surfaces are highly conserved among CheA homologues. These results strongly suggest that the same docking sites are widely utilized in prokaryotic sensory pathways. Finally, the results provide new structural constraints allowing the development of improved models for core complex architecture.