An Essential Regulatory System Originating from Polygenic Transcriptional Rewiring of PhoP-PhoQ of Xanthomonas campestris

Genetics. 2017 Aug;206(4):2207-2223. doi: 10.1534/genetics.117.200204. Epub 2017 May 26.


How essential, regulatory genes originate and evolve is intriguing because mutations of these genes not only lead to lethality in organisms, but also have pleiotropic effects since they control the expression of multiple downstream genes. Therefore, the evolution of essential, regulatory genes is not only determined by genetic variations of their own sequences, but also by the biological function of downstream genes and molecular mechanisms of regulation. To understand the origin of essential, regulatory genes, experimental dissection of the complete regulatory cascade is needed. Here, we provide genetic evidences to reveal that PhoP-PhoQ is an essential two-component signal transduction system in the gram-negative bacterium Xanthomonas campestris, but that its orthologs in other bacteria belonging to Proteobacteria are nonessential. Mutational, biochemical, and chromatin immunoprecipitation together with high-throughput sequencing analyses revealed that phoP and phoQ of X. campestris and its close relative Pseudomonas aeruginosa are replaceable, and that the consensus binding motifs of the transcription factor PhoP are also highly conserved. PhoP Xcc in X. campestris regulates the transcription of a number of essential, structural genes by directly binding to cis-regulatory elements (CREs); however, these CREs are lacking in the orthologous essential, structural genes in P. aeruginosa, and thus the regulatory relationships between PhoP Pae and these downstream essential genes are disassociated. Our findings suggested that the recruitment of regulatory proteins by critical structural genes via transcription factor-CRE rewiring is a driving force in the origin and functional divergence of essential, regulatory genes.

Keywords: PhoP-PhoQ; Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris; essential gene; transcription-cis regulatory element rewiring; two-component signal transduction system.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Transcriptional Activation*
  • Xanthomonas campestris / genetics*
  • Xanthomonas campestris / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • PhoQ protein, Bacteria
  • PhoP protein, Bacteria