Research Articles

Polar location of the chemoreceptor complex in the Escherichia coli cell

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Science  19 Mar 1993:
Vol. 259, Issue 5102, pp. 1717-1723
DOI: 10.1126/science.8456299


The eukaryotic cell exhibits compartmentalization of functions to various membrane-bound organelles and to specific domains within each membrane. The spatial distribution of the membrane chemoreceptors and associated cytoplasmic chemotaxis proteins in Escherichia coli were examined as a prototypic functional aggregate in bacterial cells. Bacterial chemotaxis involves a phospho-relay system brought about by ligand association with a membrane receptor, culminating in a switch in the direction of flagellar rotation. The transduction of the chemotaxis signal is initiated by a chemoreceptor-CheW-CheA ternary complex at the inner membrane. These ternary complexes aggregate predominantly at the cell poles. Polar localization of the cytoplasmic CheA and CheW proteins is dependent on membrane-bound chemoreceptor. Chemoreceptors are not confined to the cell poles in strains lacking both CheA and CheW. The chemoreceptor-CheW binary complex is polarly localized in the absence of CheA, whereas the chemoreceptor-CheA binary complex is not confined to the cell poles in strains lacking CheW. The subcellular localization of the chemotaxis proteins may reflect a general mechanism by which the bacterial cell sequesters different regions of the cell for specialized functions.