Discovering unknown associations between prokaryotic receptors and their ligands

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


The motility of microorganisms through the environment is driven by chemical gradients: They move towards nutrients and away from signals that indicate unfavorable conditions. This chemotaxis is mediated by transmembrane chemoreceptors that recognize one or many target molecules. In most cases, the encounter with a ligand is recorded by a periplasmic sensor domain, which in turn transmits a signal through the membrane to a cytoplasmic signaling domain (1). Under conditions of environmental stress, these signaling cascades may induce profound lifestyle changes from planktonic cells to a biofilm or from active to inactive cells (2). While it is relatively straightforward to annotate most prokaryotic chemoreceptors from the ever-increasing number of sequenced genomes and environmental samples, the identity of their binding partners is often not clear from protein sequence. As the specificity of downstream signaling events is determined by the sensor domain, it is critical to learn about novel pairings between ligands and their receptors. Using a range of computational and experimental approaches, Cerna-Vargas et al. show in PNAS that a subset of a wide-spread group of dCache_1 receptors evolved to recognize various types of biological amines.



microorganisms, prokaryotic receptors, ligands, cytoplasmic signaling


Dlakić, M. (2023). Discovering unknown associations between prokaryotic receptors and their ligands. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(46), e2316830120.
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