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D.R. Ortega, C. Yang, P. Ames, J. Baudry, J.S. Parkinson, and I.B. Zhulin (2013)

A Phenylalanine Rotameric Switch for Signal-State Control in Bacterial Chemoreceptors

Nature Communications, 4:2881.

Bacterial chemoreceptors are widely used as a model system for elucidating the molecular mechanisms of transmembrane signalling and have provided a detailed understanding of how ligand binding by the receptor modulates the activity of its associated kinase CheA. However, the mechanisms by which conformational signals move between signalling elements within a receptor dimer and how they control kinase activity remain unknown. Here, using long molecular dynamics simulations, we show that the kinase-activating cytoplasmic tip of the chemoreceptor fluctuates between two stable conformations in a signal-dependent manner. A highly conserved residue, Phe396, appears to serve as the conformational switch, because flipping of the stacked aromatic rings of an interacting F396-F396′ pair in the receptor homodimer takes place concomitantly with the signal-related conformational changes. We suggest that interacting aromatic residues, which are common stabilizers of protein tertiary structure, might serve as rotameric molecular switches in other biological processes as well.

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