Intramembrane-sensing histidine kinases: a new family of cell envelope stress sensors in Firmicutes bacteria

FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2006 Nov;264(2):133-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2006.00444.x.


Two-component signal-transducing systems (TCS) consist of a histidine kinase (HK) that senses a specific environmental stimulus, and a cognate response regulator (RR) that mediates the cellular response. Most HK are membrane-anchored proteins harboring two domains: An extracytoplasmic input and a cytoplasmic transmitter (or kinase) domain, separated by transmembrane helices that are crucial for the intramolecular information flow. In contrast to the cytoplasmic domain, the input domain is highly variable, reflecting the plethora of different signals sensed. Intramembrane-sensing HK (IM-HK) are characterized by their short input domain, consisting solely of two putative transmembane helices. They lack an extracytoplasmic domain, indicative for a sensing process at or from within the membrane interface. Most proteins sharing this domain architecture are found in Firmicutes bacteria. Two major groups can be differentiated based on sequence similarity and genomic context: (1) BceS-like IM-HK that are functionally and genetically linked to ABC transporters, and (2) LiaS-like IM-HK, as part of three-component systems. Most IM-HK sense cell envelope stress, and identified target genes are often involved in maintaining cell envelope integrity, mediating antibiotic resistance, or detoxification processes. Therefore, IM-HK seem to constitute an important mechanism of cell envelope stress response in low G+C Gram-positive bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / classification
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / genetics
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / physiology*
  • Histidine Kinase
  • Protein Kinases / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Protein Kinases
  • Histidine Kinase