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Most motile bacteria sense and respond to their environment through a transmembrane chemoreceptor array whose structure and function have been well-studied, but many species also contain an additional cluster of chemoreceptors in their cytoplasm. Although the cytoplasmic cluster is essential for normal chemotaxis in some organisms, its structure and function remain unknown. Here we use electron cryotomography to image the cytoplasmic chemoreceptor cluster in Rhodobacter sphaeroides and Vibrio cholerae. We show that just like transmembrane arrays, cytoplasmic clusters contain trimers-of-receptor-dimers organized in 12-nm hexagonal arrays. In contrast to transmembrane arrays, however, cytoplasmic clusters comprise two CheA/CheW baseplates sandwiching two opposed receptor arrays. We further show that cytoplasmic fragments of normally transmembrane E. coli chemoreceptors form similar sandwiched structures in the presence of molecular crowding agents. Together these results suggest that the 12-nm hexagonal architecture is fundamentally important and that sandwiching and crowding can replace the stabilizing effect of the membrane. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02151.001.

Original publication

DOI

10.7554/eLife.02151

Type

Journal article

Journal

Elife

Publication Date

25/03/2014

Volume

3

Keywords

Rhodobacter sphaeroides, Vibrio cholerae, chemotaxis, correlative microscopy, electron cryotomography, Chemoreceptor Cells, Chemotaxis, Cytoplasm, Dimerization, Rhodobacter sphaeroides, Signal Transduction, Tomography, Vibrio cholerae