OmpR and EnvZ comprise a two-component system that regulates the porin genes ompF and ompC in response to changes in osmolarity. EnvZ is autophosphorylated by intracellular ATP on a histidine residue, and it transfers the phosphoryl group to an aspartic acid residue of OmpR. EnvZ can also dephosphorylate phospho-OmpR (OmpR-P) to control the cellular level of OmpR-P. At low osmolarity, OmpR-P levels are low because of either low EnvZ kinase or high EnvZ phosphatase activities. At high osmolarity, OmpR-P is elevated. It has been proposed that EnvZ phosphatase is the activity that is regulated by osmolarity. OmpR is a two-domain response regulator; phosphorylation of OmpR increases its affinity for DNA, and DNA binding stimulates phosphorylation. The step that is affected by DNA depends upon the phosphodonor employed. In the present work, we have used fluorescence anisotropy and phosphotransfer assays to examine OmpR interactions with EnvZ. Our results indicate that phosphorylation greatly reduces the affinity of OmpR for the kinase, whereas DNA does not affect their interaction. The results presented cast serious doubts on the role of the EnvZ phosphatase in response to signaling in vivo.
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