Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 136–154 | Cite as

Response regulators of bacterial signal transduction systems: Selective domain shuffling during evolution

  • Gerald M. Pao
  • Milton H. SaierJr.


Response regulators of bacterial sensory transduction systems generally consist of receiver module domains covalently linked to effector domains. The effector domains include DNA binding and/or catalytic units that are regulated by sensor kinase-catalyzed aspartyl phosphorylation within their receiver modules. Most receiver modules are associated with three distinct families of DNA binding domains, but some are associated with other types of DNA binding domains, with methylated chemotaxis protein (MCP) demethylases, or with sensor kinases. A few exist as independent entities which regulate their target systems by noncovalent interactions.

In this study the molecular phylogenies of the receiver modules and effector domains of 49 fully sequenced response regulators and their homologues were determined. The three major, evolutionarily distinct, DNA binding domains found in response regulators were evaluated for their phylogenetic relatedness, and the phylogenetic trees obtained for these domains were compared with those for the receiver modules. Members of one family (family 1) of DNA binding domains are linked to large ATPase domains which usually function cooperatively in the activation of E. Coli σ54-dependent promoters or their equivalents in other bacteria. Members of a second family (family 2) always function in conjunction with the E. Coli σ70 or its equivalent in other bacteria. A third family of DNA binding domains (family 3) functions by an uncharacterized mechanism involving more than one a factor. These three domain families utilize distinct helix-turn-helix motifs for DNA binding.

The phylogenetic tree of the receiver modules revealed three major and several minor clusters of these domains. The three major receiver module clusters (clusters 1, 2, and 3) generally function with the three major families of DNA binding domains (families 1, 2, and 3, respectively) to comprise three classes of response regulators (classes 1, 2, and 3), although several exceptions exist. The minor clusters of receiver modules were usually, but not always, associated with other types of effector domains. Finally, several receiver modules did not fit into a cluster. It was concluded that receiver modules usually diverged from common ancestral protein domains together with the corresponding effector domains, although domain shuffling, due to intragenic splicing and fusion, must have occurred during the evolution of some of these proteins.

Multiple sequence alignments of the 49 receiver modules and their various types of effector domains, together with other homologous domains, allowed definition of regions of striking sequence similarity and degrees of conservation of specific residues. Sequence data were correlated with structure/function when such information was available. These studies should provide guides for extrapolation of results obtained with one response regulator to others as well as for the design of future structure/function analyses.

Key words

Sensory transduction Protein phosphorylation Transcriptional activation Response regulators Phylogenetic tree Domain shuffling Receiver modules Effector domains 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerald M. Pao
    • 1
  • Milton H. SaierJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of California at San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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