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A large chemotaxis operon was identified in Rhodobacter sphaeroides WS8-N using a probe based on the 3' terminal portion of the Rhizobium meliloti cheA gene. Two genes homologous to the enteric cheY were identified in an operon also containing cheA, cheW, and cheR homologues. The deduced protein sequences of che gene products were aligned with those from Escherichia coli and shown to be highly conserved. A mutant with an interrupted copy of cheA showed normal patterns of swimming, unlike the equivalent mutants in E. coli which are smooth swimming. Tethered cheA mutant cells showed normal responses to changes in organic acids, but increased, inverted responses to sugars. The unusual behaviour of the cheA mutant and the identification of two homologues of cheY suggests that R. sphaeroides has at least two pathways controlling motor activity. To identify functional similarity between the newly identified R. sphaeroides Che pathway and the methyl-accepting chemotaxis protein (MCP)-dependent pathway in enteric bacteria, the R. sphaeroides cheW gene was expressed in a cheW mutant strain of E. coli and found to complement, causing a partial return to a swarming phenotype. In addition, expression of the R. sphaeroides gene in wild-type E. coli resulted in the same increased tumbling and reduced swarming as seen when the native gene is overexpressed in E. coli. The identification of che homologues in R. sphaeroides and complementation by cheW suggests the presence of MCPs in an organism previously considered to use only MCP-independent sensing. The MCP-dependent pathway, appears conserved.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Microbiol

Publication Date





357 - 366


Acetates, Amino Acid Sequence, Bacterial Proteins, Base Sequence, Chemotaxis, Cloning, Molecular, Escherichia coli, Escherichia coli Proteins, Fructose, Genes, Bacterial, Genetic Complementation Test, Histidine Kinase, Membrane Proteins, Methyl-Accepting Chemotaxis Proteins, Methyltransferases, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutagenesis, Insertional, Operon, Rhodobacter sphaeroides, Sequence Alignment, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Sequence Homology, Amino Acid, Sinorhizobium meliloti