Interactions between the YycFG and PhoPR two-component systems in Bacillus subtilis: the PhoR kinase phosphorylates the non-cognate YycF response regulator upon phosphate limitation


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Two-component signal transduction systems (TCS) are an important mechanism by which bacteria sense and respond to their environment. Although each two-component system appears to detect and respond to a specific signal(s), it is now evident that they do not always act independently of each other. In this paper we present data indicating regulatory links between the PhoPR two-component system that participates in the cellular response to phosphate limitation, and the essential YycFG two-component system in Bacillus subtilis. We show that the PhoR sensor kinase can activate the YycF response regulator during a phosphate limitation-induced stationary phase, and that this reaction occurs in the presence of the cognate YycG sensor kinase. Phosphorylation of YycF by PhoR also occurs in vitro, albeit at a reduced level. However, the reciprocal cross-phosphorylation does not occur. A second level of interaction between PhoPR and YycFG is indicated by the fact that cells depleted for YycFG have a severely deficient PhoPR-dependent phosphate limitation response and that YycF can bind directly to the promoter of the phoPR operon. YycFG-depleted cells neither activate expression of phoA and phoPR nor repress expression of the essential tagAB and tagDEF operons upon phosphate limitation. This effect is specific to the PhoPR-dependent phosphate limitation response because PhoPR-independent phosphate limitation responses can be initiated in YycFG-depleted cells.