Phosphatase to kinase switch of a critical enzyme contributes to timing of cell differentiation

Trisha N. Chong, Mayura Panjalingam, Saumya Saurabh, Lucy Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cell differentiation is an essential biological process that is subject to strict temporal regulation. Caulobacter crescentus undergoes obligate differentiation from a swarmer cell to a stationary, replication-competent stalked cell with each cell cycle. We report that the switch from phosphatase to kinase activity of the histidine kinase PleC contributes to timing this differentiation event. PleC Per-Arnt-Sim (PAS) domain interaction with the polar scaffold protein PodJ localizes PleC to the cell pole and inhibits in vivo kinase activity. Upon PodJ degradation, released PleC switches to its kinase form and phosphorylates the PleD diguanylate cyclase, initiating the signaling pathway responsible for differentiation. While PodJ inhibits PleC kinase activity, it does not impact PleC phosphatase activity on DivK, which is required for pili biogenesis and flagellar rotation. Thus, PleC PAS domains affect enzymatic function on diverse substrates by relying on context-dependent binding partners, thereby controlling the timing of Caulobacter cell differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Caulobacter
  • PAS domain
  • cell differentiation
  • histidine kinase
  • phosphatase
  • two-component systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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