Identification of the site of phosphorylation of the chemotaxis response regulator protein, CheY

D. A. Sanders, B. L. Gillece-Castro, A. M. Stock, A. L. Burlingame, D. E. Koshland

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The protein (Escherichia coli CheY) that controls the direction of flagellar rotation during bacterial chemotaxis has been shown to be phosphorylated on the aspartate 57 residue. The residue phosphorylated is present within a conserved sequence in every member of a family of bacterial regulatory proteins. The phosphorylation is transient, with a much shorter half-life than that expected of a simple acyl phosphate intermediate, indicating that the sequence and conformation of the protein is designed to achieve a rapid hydrolysis. The CheY-phosphate linkage can be reductively cleaved by sodium borohydride. High-performance tandem mass-spectrometric analysis of proteolytic peptides derived from [3H]borohydride-reduced phosphorylated CheY protein was used to identify the position of phosphorylation. Mutants with altered aspartate 57 exhibited no chemotaxis. When aspartate 13, another conserved residue, was changed, greatly reduced chemotaxis was observed, suggesting an important role for aspartate 13. The rate-determining step of chemotactic signaling is governed by the kinetics of formation and hydrolysis of the CheY protein phosphoaspartate bond. The CheY protein apparently functions as a protein phosphatase that possesses a transient covalent intermediate. Transient phosphorylation of an aspartate residue is an effective mechanism for producing a biochemical signal with a short concentration-independent half-life. The duration of the signal can be controlled by small structural elements within the phosphorylated protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21770-21778
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number36
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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