Osmosensing by Bacteria

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Science's STKE  17 Oct 2006:
Vol. 2006, Issue 357, pp. pe43
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3572006pe43

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Osmosensors are proteins that sense environmental osmotic pressure. They mediate or direct osmoregulatory responses that allow cells to survive osmotic changes and extremes. Bacterial osmosensing transporters sense high external osmotic pressure and respond by mediating organic osmolyte uptake, hence cellular rehydration. Detailed studies of osmosensing transporters OpuA, BetP, and ProP suggest that they sense and respond to different osmotic pressure–dependent cellular properties. These studies also suggest that each protein has a cytoplasmic osmosensory or osmoregulatory domain, but that these domains differ in structure and function. It is not yet clear whether each transporter represents a distinct osmosensory mechanism or whether different research groups are approaching the same mechanism by way of different paths. Principles emerging from this research will apply to other osmosensors, including those that initiate signal transduction cascades in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

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