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Two-component regulatory systems are commonly used by bacteria to coordinate intracellular responses with environmental cues. These systems are composed of functional protein pairs consisting of a sensor histidine kinase and cognate response regulator. In contrast to the well-studied Caulobacter crescentus system, which carries dozens of these pairs, the streamlined bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia pipientis encodes only two pairs: CckA/CtrA and PleC/PleD. Here, we used bioinformatic tools to compare characterized two-component system relays from C. crescentus, the related Anaplasmataceae species Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Ehrlichia chaffeensis, and 12 sequenced Wolbachia strains. We found the core protein pairs and a subset of interacting partners to be highly conserved within Wolbachia and these other Anaplasmataceae. Genes involved in two-component signaling were positioned differently within the various Wolbachia genomes, whereas the local context of each gene was conserved. Unlike Anaplasma and Ehrlichia, Wolbachia two-component genes were more consistently found clustered with metabolic genes. The domain architecture and key functional residues standard for two-component system proteins were well-conserved in Wolbachia, although residues that specify cognate pairing diverged substantially from other Anaplasmataceae. These findings indicate that Wolbachia two-component signaling pairs share considerable functional overlap with other alpha-proteobacterial systems, whereas their divergence suggests the potential for regulatory differences and cross-talk.


Copyright © 2015 Christensen and Serbus DOI: 10.1534/g3.115.017137 This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Unported License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.