Lateral density of receptor arrays in the membrane plane influences sensitivity of the E. coli chemotaxis response

Cezar M. Khursigara, Ganhui Lan, Silke Neumann, Xiongwu Wu, Suchie Ravindran, Mario J. Borgnia, Victor Sourjik, Jacqueline Milne, Yuhai Tu, Sriram Subramaniam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


In chemotactic bacteria, transmembrane chemoreceptors, CheA and CheW form the core signalling complex of the chemotaxis sensory apparatus. These complexes are organized in extended arrays in the cytoplasmic membrane that allow bacteria to respond to changes in concentration of extracellular ligands via a cooperative, allosteric response that leads to substantial amplification of the signal induced by ligand binding. Here, we have combined cryo-electron tomographic studies of the 3D spatial architecture of chemoreceptor arrays in intact E. coli cells with computational modelling to develop a predictive model for the cooperativity and sensitivity of the chemotaxis response. The predictions were tested experimentally using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) microscopy. Our results demonstrate that changes in lateral packing densities of the partially ordered, spatially extended chemoreceptor arrays can modulate the bacterial chemotaxis response, and that information about the molecular organization of the arrays derived by cryo-electron tomography of intact cells can be translated into testable, predictive computational models of the chemotaxis response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1719-1729
Number of pages11
JournalThe EMBO journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 4 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • chemotaxis
  • cryo-electron tomography
  • receptors
  • signal transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Neuroscience


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