FrzZ, a dual CheY-like response regulator, functions as an output for the Frz chemosensory pathway of Myxococcus xanthus


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Myxococcus xanthus utilizes two distinct motility systems for movement (gliding) on solid surfaces: adventurous motility (A-motility) and social motility (S-motility). Both systems are regulated by the Frz signal transduction pathway, which controls cell reversals required for directed motility and fruiting body formation. The Frz chemosensory system, unlike the Escherichia coli chemotaxis system, contains proteins with multiple response regulator domains: FrzE, a CheA–CheY hybrid protein, and FrzZ, a CheY–CheY hybrid protein. Previously, the CheY domain of FrzE was hypothesized to act as the response regulator output of the Frz system. In this study, using a genetic suppressor screen, we identified FrzZ and showed FrzZ is epistatic to FrzE, demonstrating that FrzZ is the principal output component of the pathway. We constructed M. xanthus point mutations in the phosphoaccepting aspartate residues of FrzZ and demonstrated the respective roles of these residues in group and single cell motility. We also performed in vitro assays and showed rapid phosphotransfer between the CheA domain of FrzE and each of the CheY domains of FrzZ. These experiments showed that FrzZ plays a direct role as an output of the Frz chemosensory pathway and that both CheY domains of FrzZ are functional.