The Molecular Mechanism of Nitrate Chemotaxis via Direct Ligand Binding to the PilJ Domain of McpN
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AuthorMartín Mora, David; Ortega, Álvaro; Matilla, Miguel; Martínez Rodríguez, Sergio; Gavira Gallardo, José Antonio; Krell, Tino
American Society for Microbiology
Martín-Mora D, Ortega Á, Matilla MA, Martínez-Rodríguez S, Gavira JA, Krell T. 2019. The molecular mechanism of nitrate chemotaxis via direct ligand binding to the PilJ domain of McpN. mBio 10:e02334-18
SponsorshipThis work was supported by FEDER funds and Fondo Social Europeo through grants from the Junta de Andalucía (grant CVI-7335) and the Spanish Ministry for Economy and Competitiveness (grants BIO2013-42297, BIO2016-76779-P, and BIO2016-74875-P). We furthermore acknowledge NIH grant P30 DK089507, which financed the generation of bacterial mutants
Chemotaxis and energy taxis permit directed bacterial movements in gradients of environmental cues. Nitrate is a final electron acceptor for anaerobic respiration and can also serve as a nitrogen source for aerobic growth. Previous studies indicated that bacterial nitrate taxis is mediated by energy taxis mechanisms, which are based on the cytosolic detection of consequences of nitrate metabolism. Here we show that Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 mediates nitrate chemotaxis on the basis of specific nitrate sensing by the periplasmic PilJ domain of the PA2788/ McpN chemoreceptor. The presence of nitrate reduced mcpN transcript levels, and McpN-mediated taxis occurred only under nitrate starvation conditions. In contrast to the NarX and NarQ sensor kinases, McpN bound nitrate specifically and showed no affinity for other ligands such as nitrite. We report the three-dimensional structure of the McpN ligand binding domain (LBD) at 1.3-Å resolution in complex with nitrate. Although structurally similar to 4-helix bundle domains, the ligand binding mode differs since a single nitrate molecule is bound to a site on the dimer symmetry axis. As for 4-helix bundle domains, ligand binding stabilized the McpN-LBD dimer. McpN homologues showed a wide phylogenetic distribution, indicating that nitrate chemotaxis is a widespread phenotype. These homologues were particularly abundant in bacteria that couple sulfide/sulfur oxidation with nitrate reduction. This work expands the range of known chemotaxis effectors and forms the basis for the exploration of nitrate chemotaxis in other bacteria and for the study of its physiological role.