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Lifestyle and niche adaptation play an important role in the selection of the chemosensory receptor profile of bacteria

To ensure cell survival, bacteria need to constantly adapt to changing environmental conditions. For this, bacterial cells are equipped with an array of different signal transduction systems that sense a variety of environmental stimuli. Chemosensory pathways are among the most abundant prokaryotic signal transduction systems. In a canonical chemosensory pathway, the binding of signals to the ligand binding domain (LBD) of dedicated chemoreceptor (CR) proteins initiates a signal transduction cascade that ultimately controls flagellar rotation, converting environmental information into instructions that regulate bacterial movement. Although CRs play a central role in plant-microbiome interactions such as colonization and infection, little is known about their phylogenetic and ecological specificity. Considering the enormous variety of LBDs at sensor proteins, an important question resides in establishing the forces that have driven their evolution and selection.

In this work, 82,277 CR sequences from 11,806 representative microbial species covering the whole prokaryotic phylogeny have been analyzed and classified according to their LBD type using a de novo homology clustering method. We provide a comprehensive catalogue of CRs classified by their LBD region that includes a large number of putative new LBD types. Through phylogenomic analysis, we identified hundreds of LBDs that are present predominantly in plant-associated bacteria and we found that the taxonomic distribution of these LBD types is only partially explained by phylogeny. In fact, our results show that the profile of LBD types in a given genome is related to the lifestyle specialization, with plant symbionts and phytopathogens showing the highest number of niche-specific LBDs. These findings offer a number of research opportunities in the field of signal transduction, such as the exploration of similar relationships in CRs of bacteria with a different lifestyle, like those inhabiting or infecting the human intestine.

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Original Paper:

Sanchis-López, C., Cerna-Vargas, J.P., Santamaría-Hernando, S., Ramos, C., Krell, T., Rodríguez-Palenzuela, P., López-Solanilla, E., Huerta-Cepas, J., Rodríguez-Herva, J.J. 2021. Prevalence and Specificity of Chemoreceptor Profiles in Plant-Associated Bacteria. mSystems e00951-21. DOI: 10.1128/mSystems.00951-21

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