Upon starvation, Bacillus subtilis cells switch from growth to sporulation. It is believed that the N-terminal sensor domain of the cytoplasmic histidine kinase KinA is responsible for detection of the sporulation-specific signal(s) that appears to be produced only under starvation conditions. Following the sensing of the signal, KinA triggers autophosphorylation of the catalytic histidine residue in the C-terminal domain to transmit the phosphate moiety, via phosphorelay, to the master regulator for sporulation, Spo0A. However, there is no direct evidence to support the function of the sensor domain, because the specific signal(s) has never been found. To investigate the role of the N-terminal sensor domain, we replaced the endogenous three-PAS repeat in the N-terminal domain of KinA with a two-PAS repeat derived from Escherichia coli and examined the function of the resulting chimeric protein. Despite the introduction of a foreign domain, we found that the resulting chimeric protein, in a concentration-dependent manner, triggered sporulation by activating Spo0A through phosphorelay, irrespective of nutrient availability. Further, by using chemical cross-linking, we showed that the chimeric protein exists predominantly as a tetramer, mediated by the N-terminal domain, as was found for KinA. These results suggest that tetramer formation mediated by the N-terminal domain, regardless of the origin of the protein, is important and sufficient for the kinase activity catalyzed by the C-terminal domain. Taken together with our previous observations, we propose that the primary role of the N-terminal domain of KinA is to form a functional tetramer, but not for sensing an unknown signal.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology