American Chemical Society
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The Structure of a Soluble Chemoreceptor Suggests a Mechanism for Propagating Conformational Signals

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journal contribution
posted on 2009-03-10, 00:00 authored by Abiola M. Pollard, Alexandrine M. Bilwes, Brian R. Crane
Transmembrane chemoreceptors, also known as methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins (MCPs), translate extracellular signals into intracellular responses in the bacterial chemotaxis system. MCP ligand binding domains control the activity of the CheA kinase, situated ∼200 Å away, across the cytoplasmic membrane. The 2.17 Å resolution crystal structure of a Thermotoga maritima soluble receptor (Tm14) reveals distortions in its dimeric four-helix bundle that provide insight into the conformational states available to MCPs for propagating signals. A bulge in one helix generates asymmetry between subunits that displaces the kinase-interacting tip, which resides more than 100 Å away. The maximum bundle distortion maps to the adaptation region of transmembrane MCPs where reversible methylation of acidic residues tunes receptor activity. Minor alterations in coiled-coil packing geometry translate the bulge distortion to a >25 Å movement of the tip relative to the bundle stalks. The Tm14 structure discloses how alterations in local helical structure, which could be induced by changes in methylation state and/or by conformational signals from membrane proximal regions, can reposition a remote domain that interacts with the CheA kinase.