Sensing Cold and Changing Coats

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Science  31 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5462, pp. 2377
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5462.2377h

Poikilothermic organisms sense and adapt to changes in ambient temperature. The cyanobacteria Synechocystis responds to a decrease in membrane fluidity (indicating a drop in temperature) by expressing enzymes that increase the degree of unsaturation of membrane lipids. Suzuki et al. performed systematic mutagenesis of Synechocystis to identify the components of the signal transduction pathway linking these events; two histidine kinase genes, hik19 and hik33, were identified along with a third gene, rer1. Based on genetic interactions and sequence analysis, the authors propose a signal transduction mechanism in which Hik33 is the cold sensor in the plasma membrane, Hik19 transduces the signal, and Rer1 is one of several targets that can regulate transcription of cold-sensitive genes.—NG

EMBO J.19, 1327 (2000).

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