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Suppressor mutations reveal an NtrC-like response regulator, NmpR, for modulation of Type-IV Pili-dependent motility in Myxococcus xanthus. PLoS Genet 2018 10;14(10):e1007714



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Two-component signaling systems (TCS) regulate bacterial responses to environmental signals through the process of protein phosphorylation. Specifically, sensor histidine kinases (SK) recognize signals and propagate the response via phosphorylation of a cognate response regulator (RR) that functions to initiate transcription of specific genes. Signaling within a single TCS is remarkably specific and cross-talk between TCS is limited. However, regulation of the flow of information through complex signaling networks that include closely related TCS remains largely unknown. Additionally, many bacteria utilize multi-component signaling networks which provide additional genetic and biochemical interactions that must be regulated for signaling fidelity, input and output specificity, and phosphorylation kinetics. Here we describe the characterization of an NtrC-like RR that participates in regulation of Type-IV pilus-dependent motility of Myxococcus xanthus and is thus named NmpR, NtrC Modulator of Pili Regulator. A complex multi-component signaling system including NmpR was revealed by suppressor mutations that restored motility to cells lacking PilR, an evolutionarily conserved RR required for expression of pilA encoding the major Type-IV pilus monomer found in many bacterial species. The system contains at least four signaling proteins: a SK with a protoglobin sensor domain (NmpU), a hybrid SK (NmpS), a phospho-sink protein (NmpT), and an NtrC-like RR (NmpR). We demonstrate that ΔpilR bypass suppressor mutations affect regulation of the NmpRSTU multi-component system, such that NmpR activation is capable of restoring expression of pilA in the absence of PilR. Our findings indicate that pilus gene expression in M. xanthus is regulated by an extended network of TCS which interact to refine control of pilus function.

Author List

Bretl DJ, Ladd KM, Atkinson SN, Müller S, Kirby JR


John Kirby PhD Chair, Center Associate Director, Professor in the Microbiology and Immunology department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Bacterial Proteins
Fimbriae Proteins
Fimbriae, Bacterial
Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
Histidine Kinase
Myxococcus xanthus
Signal Transduction
Suppression, Genetic
Transcription Factors