Escherichia coli senses and signals anoxic or low redox conditions in its growth environment by the Arc two-component system. Under those conditions, the tripartite sensor kinase ArcB undergoes autophosphorylation at the expense of ATP and subsequently transphosphorylates its cognate response regulator ArcA through a His →p Asp → His → Asp phosphorelay pathway. In this study we used various combinations of wild-type and mutant ArcB domains to analyze in vitro the pathway for signal decay. The results indicate that ArcA-P dephosphorylation does not occur by direct hydrolysis but by transfer of the phosphoryl group to the secondary transmitter and subsequently to the receiver domain of ArcB. This reverse phosphorelay involves both the conserved His-717 of the secondary transmitter domain and the conserved Asp-576 of the receiver domain of ArcB but not the conserved His-292 of its primary transmitter domain. This novel pathway for signal decay may generally apply to signal transduction systems with tripartite sensor kinases.
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