Specificity of protein-protein interactions plays a vital role in signal transduction. The chemosensory pathway of Rhodobacter sphaeroides comprises multiple homologues of chemotaxis proteins characterized in organisms such as Escherichia coli. Three CheA homologues are essential for chemotaxis in R. sphaeroides under laboratory conditions. These CheAs are differentially localized to two chemosensory clusters, one at the cell pole and one in the cytoplasm. The polar CheA, CheA(2), has the same domain structure as E. coli CheA and can phosphorylate all R. sphaeroides chemotaxis response regulators. CheA(3) and CheA(4) independently localize to the cytoplasmic cluster; each protein has a subset of the CheA domains, with CheA(3) phosphorylating CheA(4) together making a functional CheA protein. Interestingly, CheA(3)-P can only phosphorylate two response regulators, CheY(6) and CheB(2). R. sphaeroides CheAs exhibit two interesting differences in specificity: (i) the response regulators that they phosphorylate and (ii) the chemosensory cluster to which they localize. Using a domain-swapping approach we investigated the role of the P1 and P5 CheA domains in determining these specificities. We show that the P1 domain is sufficient to determine which response regulators will be phosphorylated in vitro while the P5 domain is sufficient to localize the CheAs to a specific chemosensory cluster.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Microbiol

Publication Date





318 - 330


Amino Acid Sequence, Bacterial Proteins, Cell Membrane, Chemotaxis, Cytoplasm, DNA Shuffling, Histidine Kinase, Models, Biological, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data, Phosphorylation, Protein Kinases, Protein Structure, Tertiary, Rhodobacter sphaeroides, Sequence Alignment, Substrate Specificity