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Keywords:

  • bacterial chemotaxis;
  • sensory adaptation;
  • protein modification;
  • membrane protein;
  • receptor protein;
  • transmembrane signalling;
  • Escherichia coli

Abstract

The Trg protein is one of a family of transducer proteins that mediate chemotactic response in Escherichia coli. Transducers are methylaccepting proteins that gain or lose methyl esters on specific glutamyl residues during sensory adaptation. In this study, the significance of multiple sites of methylation on transducer proteins was addressed by using oligonucleotide-directed, site-specific mutagenesis to substitute an alanyl residue at each of the five methyl-accepting sites in Trg. The resulting collection of five mutations, each inactivating a single site, was analyzed for effects on covalent modification at the remaining sites on Trg and for the ability of the altered proteins to mediate sensory adaptation. Most of the alanyl substitutions had substantial biochemical effects, enhancing or reducing methyl-accepting activity of other sites, including one case of activation of a site not methylated in wild-type protein. Analysis of the altered proteins provided explanations for many features of the complex pattern of electrophoretic forms exhibited by Trg. The mutant proteins were less efficient than normal Trg in mediating adaptation. Correlation of biochemical and behavioral data indicated that reduction in the number of methyl-accepting sites on the transducer lengthened the time required to reach an adapted state.