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Many regulatory and signaling proteins have multiple modification sites. In bacterial chemotaxis, each chemoreceptor has multiple methylation sites that are responsible for adaptation. However, whether the ordering of the multisite methylation process affects adaptation remains unclear. Furthermore, the benefit of having multiple modification sites is also unclear. Here, we show that sequentially ordered methylation/demethylation is critical for perfect adaptation; adaptation accuracy decreases as randomness in the multisite methylation process increases. A tradeoff between adaptation accuracy and response gain is discovered. We find that this accuracy-gain tradeoff is lifted significantly by having more methylation sites, but only when the multisite modification process is sequential. Our study suggests that having multiple modification sites and a sequential modification process constitute a general strategy to achieve both accurate adaptation and high response gain simultaneously. Our theory agrees with existing data and predictions are made to help identify the molecular mechanism underlying ordered covalent modifications.


Bernardo A Mello, Anderson B Beserra, Yuhai Tu. Sequential modification of bacterial chemoreceptors is key for achieving both accurate adaptation and high gain. Nature communications. 2020 Jun 08;11(1):2875

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PMID: 32514000

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