Document Type



biosensor, methyl-accepting chemotaxis protein, physiology, pseudomonas putida, receptor, spotlight, two-component system



Soil bacteria adapt to diverse and rapidly changing environmental conditions by sensing and responding to environmental cues using a variety of sensory systems. Two-component systems are a widespread type of signal transduction system present in all three domains of life and typically are comprised of a sensor kinase and a response regulator. Many two-component systems function by regulating gene expression in response to environmental stimuli. The bacterial chemotaxis system is a modified two-component system with additional protein components and a response that, rather than regulating gene expression, involves behavioral adaptation and results in net movement toward or away from a chemical stimulus. Soil bacteria generally have 20 to 40 or more chemoreceptors encoded in their genomes. To simplify the identification of chemoeffectors (ligands) sensed by bacterial chemoreceptors, we constructed hybrid sensor proteins by fusing the sensor domains of chemoreceptors to the signaling domains of the NarX/NarQ nitrate sensors. Responses to potential attractants were monitored by β-galactosidase assays using an reporter strain in which the nitrate-responsive promoter was fused to Hybrid receptors constructed from PcaY, McfR, and NahY, which are chemoreceptors for aromatic acids, tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates, and naphthalene, respectively, were sensitive and specific for detecting known attractants, and the β-galactosidase activities measured in correlated well with results of chemotaxis assays in the native strain. In addition, a screen of the hybrid receptors successfully identified new ligands for chemoreceptor proteins and resulted in the identification of six receptors that detect propionate. Relatively few of the thousands of chemoreceptors encoded in bacterial genomes have been functionally characterized. More importantly, although methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins, the major type of chemoreceptors present in bacteria, are easily identified bioinformatically, it is not currently possible to predict what chemicals will bind to a particular chemoreceptor. Chemotaxis is known to play roles in biodegradation as well as in host-pathogen and host-symbiont interactions, but many studies are currently limited by the inability to identify relevant chemoreceptor ligands. The use of hybrid receptors and this simple reporter system allowed rapid and sensitive screening for potential chemoeffectors. The fusion site chosen for this study resulted in a high percentage of functional hybrids, indicating that it could be used to broadly test chemoreceptor responses from phylogenetically diverse samples. Considering the wide range of chemical attractants detected by soil bacteria, hybrid receptors may also be useful as sensitive biosensors.

Published in

American Society for Microbiology: Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Citation/Other Information

Luu, R.A., Schomer, R.A., Brunton, Truong, R., Ta, A., Tan, W.A, Parales, J.V., Wang, Y., Huo, Y.W., Liu, S.-J., Ditty, J.L., Stewart, V., and Parales, R.E. (2019). Hybrid two-component sensors for identification of bacterial chemoreceptor function. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 85(22). pii: e01626-19. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01626-19. PMID: 31492670.

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