Stand-Alone EAL Domain Proteins Form a Distinct Subclass of EAL Proteins Involved in Regulation of Cell Motility and Biofilm Formation in Enterobacteria

J Bacteriol. 2017 Aug 22;199(18):e00179-17. doi: 10.1128/JB.00179-17. Print 2017 Sep 15.


The second messenger cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP) is almost ubiquitous among bacteria as are the c-di-GMP turnover proteins, which mediate the transition between motility and sessility. EAL domain proteins have been characterized as c-di-GMP-specific phosphodiesterases. While most EAL domain proteins contain additional, usually N-terminal, domains, there is a distinct family of proteins with stand-alone EAL domains, exemplified by Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium proteins STM3611 (YhjH/PdeH), a c-di-GMP-specific phosphodiesterase, and the enzymatically inactive STM1344 (YdiV/CdgR) and STM1697, which regulate bacterial motility through interaction with the flagellar master regulator, FlhDC. We have analyzed the phylogenetic distribution of EAL-only proteins and their potential functions. Genes encoding EAL-only proteins were found in various bacterial phyla, although most of them were seen in proteobacteria, particularly enterobacteria. Based on the conservation of the active site residues, nearly all stand-alone EAL domains encoded by genomes from phyla other than proteobacteria appear to represent functional phosphodiesterases. Within enterobacteria, EAL-only proteins were found to cluster either with YhjH or with one of the subfamilies of YdiV-related proteins. EAL-only proteins from Shigella flexneri, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Yersinia enterocolitica were tested for their ability to regulate swimming and swarming motility and formation of the red, dry, and rough (rdar) biofilm morphotype. In these tests, YhjH-related proteins S4210, KPN_01159, KPN_03274, and YE4063 displayed properties typical of enzymatically active phosphodiesterases, whereas S1641 and YE1324 behaved like members of the YdiV/STM1697 subfamily, with Yersinia enterocolitica protein YE1324 shown to downregulate motility in its native host. Of two closely related EAL-only proteins, YE2225 is an active phosphodiesterase, while YE1324 appears to interact with FlhD. These results suggest that in FlhDC-harboring beta- and gammaproteobacteria, some EAL-only proteins evolved to become catalytically inactive and regulate motility and biofilm formation by interacting with FlhDC.IMPORTANCE The EAL domain superfamily consists mainly of proteins with cyclic dimeric GMP-specific phosphodiesterase activity, but individual domains have been classified in three classes according to their functions and conserved amino acid signatures. Proteins that consist solely of stand-alone EAL domains cannot rely on other domains to form catalytically active dimers, and most of them fall into one of two distinct classes: catalytically active phosphodiesterases with well-conserved residues of the active site and the dimerization loop, and catalytically inactive YdiV/CdgR-like proteins that regulate bacterial motility by binding to the flagellar master regulator, FlhDC, and are found primarily in enterobacteria. The presence of apparently inactive EAL-only proteins in the bacteria that do not express FlhD suggests the existence of additional EAL interaction partners.

Keywords: FlhDC; cyclic di-GMP phosphodiesterase; flagellar regulon; motility; protein-protein interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Computational Biology
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Enterobacteriaceae / genetics*
  • Enterobacteriaceae / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Locomotion*
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / genetics
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • bis(3',5')-cyclic diguanylic acid
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases
  • Cyclic GMP