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Bacterial chemoreceptors provide an important model for understanding signalling processes. In the serine receptor Tsr from E. coli, a binding event in the periplasmic domain of the receptor dimer causes a shift in a single transmembrane helix of roughly 0.15 nm towards the cytoplasm. This small change is propagated through the ≈ 22 nm length of the receptor, causing downstream inhibition of the kinase CheA. This requires interactions within a trimer of receptor dimers. Additionally, the signal is amplified across a 53,000 nm(2) array of chemoreceptor proteins, including ≈ 5,200 receptor trimers-of-dimers, at the cell pole. Despite a wealth of experimental data on the system, including high resolution structures of individual domains and extensive mutagenesis data, it remains uncertain how information is communicated across the receptor from the binding event to the downstream effectors. We present a molecular model of the entire Tsr dimer, and examine its behaviour using coarse-grained molecular dynamics and elastic network modelling. We observe a large bending in dimer models between the linker domain HAMP and coiled-coil domains, which is supported by experimental data. Models of the trimer of dimers, built from the dimer models, are more constrained and likely represent the signalling state. Simulations of the models in a 70 nm diameter vesicle with a biologically realistic lipid mixture reveal specific lipid interactions and oligomerisation of the trimer of dimers. The results indicate a mechanism whereby small motions of a single helix can be amplified through HAMP domain packing, to initiate large changes in the whole receptor structure.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS Comput Biol

Publication Date





Bacterial Proteins, Binding Sites, Cell Membrane, Computer Simulation, Membrane Fluidity, Membrane Microdomains, Membrane Proteins, Models, Chemical, Models, Molecular, Protein Binding, Protein Conformation, Signal Transduction