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  1. Galperin, Michael Y. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Membrane potential homeostasis is essential for cell survival. Defects in membrane potential lead to pleiotropic phenotypes, consistent with the central role of membrane energetics in cell physiology. Homologs of the progestin and AdipoQ receptors (PAQRs) are conserved in multiple phyla of Bacteria and Eukarya . In eukaryotes, PAQRs are proposed to modulate membrane fluidity and fatty acid (FA) metabolism. The role of bacterial homologs has not been elucidated. Here, we use Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis to show that bacterial PAQR homologs, which we name “TrhA,” have a role in membrane energetics homeostasis. Using transcriptional fusions, we show thatmore »E. coli TrhA (encoded by yqfA ) is part of the unsaturated fatty acid biosynthesis regulon. Fatty acid analyses and physiological assays show that a lack of TrhA in both E. coli and B. subtilis (encoded by yplQ ) provokes subtle but consistent changes in membrane fatty acid profiles that do not translate to control of membrane fluidity. Instead, membrane proteomics in E. coli suggested a disrupted energy metabolism and dysregulated membrane energetics in the mutant, though it grew similarly to its parent. These changes translated into a disturbed membrane potential in the mutant relative to its parent under various growth conditions. Similar dysregulation of membrane energetics was observed in a different E. coli strain and in the distantly related B. subtilis . Together, our findings are consistent with a role for TrhA in membrane energetics homeostasis, through a mechanism that remains to be elucidated. IMPORTANCE Eukaryotic homologs of the progestin and AdipoQ receptor family (PAQR) have been shown to regulate membrane fluidity by affecting, through unknown mechanisms, unsaturated fatty acid (FA) metabolism. The bacterial homologs studied here mediate small and consistent changes in unsaturated FA metabolism that do not seem to impact membrane fluidity but, rather, alter membrane energetics homeostasis. Together, the findings here suggest that bacterial and eukaryotic PAQRs share functions in maintaining membrane homeostasis (fluidity in eukaryotes and energetics for bacteria with TrhA homologs).« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 19, 2023
  2. Bacterial chemotaxis is the directed movement of motile bacteria in gradients of chemoeffectors. This behavior is mediated by dedicated signal transduction pathways that couple environment sensing with changes in the direction of rotation of flagellar motors to ultimately affect the motility pattern. Azospirillum brasilense uses two distinct chemotaxis pathways, named Che1 and Che4, and four different response regulators (CheY1, CheY4, CheY6, and CheY7) to control the swimming pattern during chemotaxis. Each of the CheY homologs was shown to differentially affect the rotational bias of the polar flagellum and chemotaxis. The role, if any, of these CheY homologs in swarming, whichmore »depends on a distinct lateral flagella system or in attachment is not known. Here, we characterize CheY homologs’ roles in swimming, swarming, and attachment to abiotic and biotic (wheat roots) surfaces and biofilm formation. We show that while strains lacking CheY1 and CheY6 are still able to navigate air gradients, strains lacking CheY4 and CheY7 are chemotaxis null. Expansion of swarming colonies in the presence of gradients requires chemotaxis. The induction of swarming depends on CheY4 and CheY7, but the cells’ organization as dense clusters in productive swarms appear to depend on functional CheYs but not chemotaxis per se . Similarly, functional CheY homologs but not chemotaxis, contribute to attachment to both abiotic and root surfaces as well as to biofilm formation, although these effects are likely dependent on additional cell surface properties such as adhesiveness. Collectively, our data highlight distinct roles for multiple CheY homologs and for chemotaxis on swarming and attachment to surfaces.« less
  3. Petersen, Jillian Michelle (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Bacterial chemotaxis affords motile bacteria the ability to navigate the environment to locate niches for growth and survival. At the molecular level, chemotaxis depends on chemoreceptor signaling arrays that interact with cytoplasmic proteins to control the direction of movement. In Azospirillum brasilense , chemotaxis is mediated by two distinct chemotaxis pathways: Che1 and Che4. Both Che1 and Che4 are critical in the A. brasilense free-living and plant-associated lifestyles. Here, we use whole-cell proteomics and metabolomics to characterize the role of chemotaxis in A. brasilense physiology. We found that mutants lacking CheA1 or CheA4 or both are affected in nonchemotaxismore »functions, including major changes in transcription, signaling transport, and cell metabolism. We identify specific effects of CheA1 and CheA4 on nitrogen metabolism, including nitrate assimilation and nitrogen fixation, that may depend, at least, on the transcriptional control of rpoN , which encodes RpoN, a global regulator of metabolism, including nitrogen. Consistent with proteomics, the abundance of several nitrogenous compounds (purines, pyrimidines, and amino acids) changed in the metabolomes of the chemotaxis mutants relative to the parental strain. Further, we uncover novel, and yet uncharacterized, layers of transcriptional and posttranscriptional control of nitrogen metabolism regulators. Together, our data reveal roles for CheA1 and CheA4 in linking chemotaxis and nitrogen metabolism, likely through control of global regulatory networks. IMPORTANCE Bacterial chemotaxis is widespread in bacteria, increasing competitiveness in diverse environments and mediating associations with eukaryotic hosts ranging from commensal to beneficial and pathogenic. In most bacteria, chemotaxis signaling is tightly linked to energy metabolism, with this coupling occurring through the sensory input of several energy-sensing chemoreceptors. Here, we show that in A. brasilense the chemotaxis proteins have key roles in modulating nitrogen metabolism, including nitrate assimilation and nitrogen fixation, through novel and yet unknown regulations. These results are significant given that A. brasilense is a model bacterium for plant growth promotion and free-living nitrogen fixation and is used as a bio-inoculant for cereal crops. Chemotaxis signaling in A. brasilense thus links locomotor behaviors to nitrogen metabolism, allowing cells to continuously and reciprocally adjust metabolism and chemotaxis signaling as they navigate gradients.« less
  4. Porto, Carla (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT The PII family comprises a group of widely distributed signal transduction proteins ubiquitous in prokaryotes and in the chloroplasts of plants. PII proteins sense the levels of key metabolites ATP, ADP, and 2-oxoglutarate, which affect the PII protein structure and thereby the ability of PII to interact with a range of target proteins. Here, we performed multiple ligand fishing assays with the PII protein orthologue GlnZ from the plant growth-promoting nitrogen-fixing bacterium Azospirillum brasilense to identify 37 proteins that are likely to be part of the PII protein-protein interaction network. Among the PII targets identified were enzymes related tomore »nitrogen and fatty acid metabolism, signaling, coenzyme synthesis, RNA catabolism, and transcription. Direct binary PII-target complex was confirmed for 15 protein complexes using pulldown assays with recombinant proteins. Untargeted metabolome analysis showed that PII is required for proper homeostasis of important metabolites. Two enzymes involved in c-di-GMP metabolism were among the identified PII targets. A PII-deficient strain showed reduced c-di-GMP levels and altered aerotaxis and flocculation behavior. These data support that PII acts as a major metabolic hub controlling important enzymes and the homeostasis of key metabolites such as c-di-GMP in response to the prevailing nutritional status. IMPORTANCE The PII proteins sense and integrate important metabolic signals which reflect the cellular nutrition and energy status. Such extraordinary ability was capitalized by nature in such a way that the various PII proteins regulate different facets of metabolism by controlling the activity of a range of target proteins by protein-protein interactions. Here, we determined the PII protein interaction network in the plant growth-promoting nitrogen-fixing bacterium Azospirillum brasilense . The interactome data along with metabolome analysis suggest that PII functions as a master metabolic regulator hub. We provide evidence that PII proteins act to regulate c-di-GMP levels in vivo and cell motility and adherence behaviors.« less
  5. ABSTRACT Plant roots shape the rhizosphere community by secreting compounds that recruit diverse bacteria. Colonization of various plant roots by the motile alphaproteobacterium Azospirillum brasilens e causes increased plant growth, root volume, and crop yield. Bacterial chemotaxis in this and other motile soil bacteria is critical for competitive colonization of the root surfaces. The role of chemotaxis in root surface colonization has previously been established by endpoint analyses of bacterial colonization levels detected a few hours to days after inoculation. More recently, microfluidic devices have been used to study plant-microbe interactions, but these devices are size limited. Here, we usemore »a novel slide-in chamber that allows real-time monitoring of plant-microbe interactions using agriculturally relevant seedlings to characterize how bacterial chemotaxis mediates plant root surface colonization during the association of A. brasilens e with Triticum aestivum (wheat) and Medicago sativa (alfalfa) seedlings. We track A. brasilense accumulation in the rhizosphere and on the root surfaces of wheat and alfalfa. A. brasilense motile cells display distinct chemotaxis behaviors in different regions of the roots, including attractant and repellent responses that ultimately drive surface colonization patterns. We also combine these observations with real-time analyses of behaviors of wild-type and mutant strains to link chemotaxis responses to distinct chemicals identified in root exudates to specific chemoreceptors that together explain the chemotactic response of motile cells in different regions of the roots. Furthermore, the bacterial second messenger c-di-GMP modulates these chemotaxis responses. Together, these findings illustrate dynamic bacterial chemotaxis responses to rhizosphere gradients that guide root surface colonization. IMPORTANCE Plant root exudates play critical roles in shaping rhizosphere microbial communities, and the ability of motile bacteria to respond to these gradients mediates competitive colonization of root surfaces. Root exudates are complex chemical mixtures that are spatially and temporally dynamic. Identifying the exact chemical(s) that mediates the recruitment of soil bacteria to specific regions of the roots is thus challenging. Here, we connect patterns of bacterial chemotaxis responses and sensing by chemoreceptors to chemicals found in root exudate gradients and identify key chemical signals that shape root surface colonization in different plants and regions of the roots.« less
  6. ABSTRACT Most chemotactic motile bacteria possess multiple chemotaxis signaling systems, the functions of which are not well characterized. Chemotaxis signaling is initiated by chemoreceptors that assemble as large arrays, together with chemotaxis coupling proteins (CheW) and histidine kinase proteins (CheA), which form a baseplate with the cytoplasmic tips of receptors. These cell pole-localized arrays mediate sensing, signaling, and signal amplification during chemotaxis responses. Membrane-bound chemoreceptors with different cytoplasmic domain lengths segregate into distinct arrays. Here, we show that a bacterium, Azospirillum brasilense , which utilizes two chemotaxis signaling systems controlling distinct motility parameters, coordinates its chemotactic responses through the productionmore »of two separate membrane-bound chemoreceptor arrays by mixing paralogs within chemotaxis baseplates. The polar localization of chemoreceptors of different length classes is maintained in strains that had baseplate signaling proteins from either chemotaxis system but was lost when both systems were deleted. Chemotaxis proteins (CheA and CheW) from each of the chemotaxis signaling systems (Che1 and Che4) could physically interact with one another, and chemoreceptors from both classes present in A. brasilense could interact with Che1 and Che4 proteins. The assembly of paralogs from distinct chemotaxis pathways into baseplates provides a straightforward mechanism for coordinating signaling from distinct pathways, which we predict is not unique to this system given the propensity of chemotaxis systems for horizontal gene transfer. IMPORTANCE The assembly of chemotaxis receptors and signaling proteins into polar arrays is universal in motile chemotactic bacteria. Comparative genome analyses indicate that most motile bacteria possess multiple chemotaxis signaling systems, and experimental evidence suggests that signaling from distinct chemotaxis systems is integrated. Here, we identify one such mechanism. We show that paralogs from two chemotaxis systems assemble together into chemoreceptor arrays, forming baseplates comprised of proteins from both chemotaxis systems. These mixed arrays provide a straightforward mechanism for signal integration and coordinated response output from distinct chemotaxis systems. Given that most chemotactic bacteria encode multiple chemotaxis systems and the propensity for these systems to be laterally transferred, this mechanism may be common to ensure chemotaxis signal integration occurs.« less