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Site‐specific receptor methylation of FrzCD in Myxococcus xanthus is controlled by a tetra‐trico peptide repeat (TPR) containing regulatory domain of the FrzF methyltransferase


Myxococcus xanthus is a gliding bacterium with a complex life cycle that includes swarming, predation and fruiting body formation. Directed movements in M. xanthus are regulated by the Frz chemosensory system, which controls cell reversals. The Frz pathway requires the activity of FrzCD, a cytoplasmic methyl-accepting chemotaxis protein, and FrzF, a methyltransferase (CheR) containing an additional domain with three tetra trico-peptide repeats (TPRs). To investigate the role of the TPRs in FrzCD methylation, we used full-length FrzF and FrzF lacking its TPRs (FrzF(CheR)) to methylate FrzCD in vitro. FrzF methylated FrzCD on a single residue, E182, while FrzF(CheR) methylated FrzCD on three residues, E168, E175 and E182, indicating that the TPRs regulate site-specific methylation. E168 and E182 were predicted consensus methylation sites, but E175 is methylated on an HE pair. To determine the roles of these sites in vivo, we substituted each methylatable glutamate with either an aspartate or an alanine residue and determined the impact of the point mutants on single cell reversals, swarming and fruiting body formation. Single, double and triple methylation site mutants revealed that each site played a unique role in M. xanthus behaviour and that the pattern of receptor methylation determined receptor activity. This work also shows that methylation can both activate and inactivate the receptor.

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