C4-Dicarboxylates Sensing Mechanism Revealed by the Crystal Structures of DctB Sensor Domain

Yan Feng Zhou, Beiyan Nan, Jie Nan, Qingjun Ma, Santosh Panjikar, Yu He Liang, Yiping Wang, Xiao Dong Su

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63 Citations (Scopus)


C4-dicarboxylates are the major carbon and energy sources during the symbiotic growth of rhizobia. Responses to C4-dicarboxylates depend on typical two-component systems (TCS) consisting of a transmembrane sensor histidine kinase and a cytoplasmic response regulator. The DctB-DctD system is the first identified TCS for C4-dicarboxylates sensing. Direct ligand binding to the sensor domain of DctB is believed to be the first step of the sensing events. In this report, the water-soluble periplasmic sensor domain of Sinorhizobium meliloti DctB (DctBp) was studied, and three crystal structures were solved: the apo protein, a complex with C4 succinate, and a complex with C3 malonate. Different from the two structurally known CitA family of carboxylate sensor proteins CitA and DcuS, the structure of DctBp consists of two tandem Per-Arnt-Sim (PAS) domains and one N-terminal helical region. Only the membrane-distal PAS domain was found to bind the ligands, whereas the proximal PAS domain was empty. Comparison of DctB, CitA, and DcuS suggests a detailed stereochemistry of C4-dicarboxylates ligand perception. The structures of the different ligand binding states of DctBp also revealed a series of conformational changes initiated upon ligand binding and propagated to the N-terminal domain responsible for dimerization, providing insights into understanding the detailed mechanism of the signal transduction of TCS histidine kinases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-61
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • C-dicarboxylates
  • crystal structure
  • DctB
  • histidine kinase
  • signal perception

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