A combined computational and genetic approach uncovers network interactions of the cyanobacterial circadian clock

Joseph S. Boyd, Ryan R. Cheng, Mark L. Paddock, Cigdem Sancar, Faruck Morcos, Susan S. Golden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Two-component systems (TCS) that employ histidine kinases (HK) and response regulators (RR) are critical mediators of cellular signaling in bacteria. In the model cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942, TCSs control global rhythms of transcription that reflect an integration of time information from the circadian clock with a variety of cellular and environmental inputs. The HK CikA and the SasA/RpaA TCS transduce time information from the circadian oscillator to modulate downstream cellular processes. Despite immense progress in understanding of the circadian clock itself, many of the connections between the clock and other cellular signaling systems have remained enigmatic. To narrow the search for additional TCS components that connect to the clock, we utilized direct-coupling analysis (DCA), a statistical analysis of covariant residues among related amino acid sequences, to infer coevolution of new and known clock TCS components. DCA revealed a high degree of interaction specificity between SasA and CikA with RpaA, as expected, but also with the phosphate-responsive response regulator SphR. Coevolutionary analysis also predicted strong specificity between RpaA and a previously undescribed kinase, HK0480 (herein CikB). A knockout of the gene for CikB (cikB) in a sasA cikA null background eliminated the RpaA phosphorylation and RpaA-controlled transcription that is otherwise present in that background and suppressed cell elongation, supporting the notion that CikB is an interactor with RpaA and the clock network. This study demonstrates the power of DCA to identify subnetworks and key interactions in signaling pathways and of combinatorial mutagenesis to explore the phenotypic consequences. Such a combined strategy is broadly applicable to other prokaryotic systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2439-2447
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, American Society for Microbiology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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