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Regulatory Roles of the GacS/GacA Two-Component System in Plant-Associated and Other Gram-Negative Bacteria

December 2001 , Volume 14 , Number  12
Pages  1,351 - 1,363

Stephan Heeb and Dieter Haas

Laboratoire de Biologie Microbienne, Université de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

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Accepted 1 August 2001.

The sensor kinase GacS and the response regulator GacA are members of a two-component system that is present in a wide variety of Gram-negative bacteria and has been studied mainly in enteric bacteria and fluorescent pseudomonads. The GacS/GacA system controls the production of secondary metabolites and extracellular enzymes involved in pathogenicity to plants and animals, biocontrol of soilborne plant diseases, ecological fitness, or tolerance to stress. A current model proposes that GacS senses a still-unknown signal and activates, via a phosphorelay mechanism, the GacA transcription regulator, which in turn triggers the expression of target genes. The GacS protein belongs to the unorthodox sensor kinases, characterized by an autophosphorylation, a receiver, and an output domain. The periplasmic loop domain of GacS is poorly conserved in diverse bacteria. Thus, a common signal interacting with this domain would be unexpected. Based on a comparison with the transcriptional regulator NarL, a secondary structure can be predicted for the GacA sensor kinases. Certain genes whose expression is regulated by the GacS/GacA system are regulated in parallel by the small RNA binding protein RsmA (CsrA) at a posttranscriptional level. It is suggested that the GacS/GacA system operates a switch between primary and secondary metabolism, with a major involvement of posttranscriptional control mechanisms.

Additional keywords: quorum sensing.

© 2001 The American Phytopathological Society