Prolonged stimuli alter the bacterial chemosensory clusters



The clustering of membrane-bound receptors plays an essential role in various biological systems. A notable model system for studying this phenomenon is the bacterial chemosensory cluster that allows motile bacteria to navigate along chemical gradients in their environment. While the basic structure of these chemosensory clusters is becoming clear, their dynamic nature and operation are not yet understood. By measuring the fluorescence polarization of tagged receptor clusters in live Escherichia coli cells, we provide evidence for stimulus-induced dynamics in these sensory clusters. We find that when a stimulus is applied, the packing of the receptors slowly decreases and that the process reverses when the stimulus is removed. Consistent with these physical changes we find that the effective cooperativity of the kinase response slowly evolves in the presence of a stimulus. Time-lapse fluorescence imaging indicates that, despite these changes, the receptor clusters do not generally dissociate upon ligand binding. These data reveal stimulus-dependent plasticity in chemoreceptor clusters.