Biological insights from structures of two-component proteins

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2009;63:133-54. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.091208.073214.


Two-component signal transduction based on phosphotransfer from a histidine protein kinase to a response regulator protein is a prevalent strategy for coupling environmental stimuli to adaptive responses in bacteria. In both histidine kinases and response regulators, modular domains with conserved structures and biochemical activities adopt different conformational states in the presence of stimuli or upon phosphorylation, enabling a diverse array of regulatory mechanisms based on inhibitory and/or activating protein-protein interactions imparted by different domain arrangements. This review summarizes some of the recent structural work that has provided insight into the functioning of bacterial histidine kinases and response regulators. Particular emphasis is placed on identifying features that are expected to be conserved among different two-component proteins from those that are expected to differ, with the goal of defining the extent to which knowledge of previously characterized two-component proteins can be applied to newly discovered systems.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Histidine Kinase
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Kinases / chemistry*
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Protein Kinases
  • Histidine Kinase