Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Shah et al.: Reductive evolution and the loss of PDC/ PAS domains from the genus Staphylococcus. BMC Genomics 2013 14:524; doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-524


Copyright 2013 Shah et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background: The Per-Arnt-Sim (PAS) domain represents a ubiquitous structural fold that is involved in bacterial sensing and adaptation systems, including several virulence related functions. Although PAS domains and the subclass of PhoQ-DcuS-CitA (PDC) domains have a common structure, there is limited amino acid sequence similarity. To gain greater insight into the evolution of PDC/PAS domains present in the bacterial kingdom and staphylococci in specific, the PDC/PAS domains from the genomic sequences of 48 bacteria, representing 5 phyla, were identified using the sensitive search method based on HMM-to-HMM comparisons (HHblits).

Results: A total of 1,007 PAS domains and 686 PDC domains distributed over 1,174 proteins were identified. For 28 Gram-positive bacteria, the distribution, organization, and molecular evolution of PDC/PAS domains were analyzed in greater detail, with a special emphasis on the genus Staphylococcus. Compared to other bacteria the staphylococci have relatively fewer proteins (6–9) containing PDC/PAS domains. As a general rule, the staphylococcal genomes examined in this study contain a core group of seven PDC/PAS domain-containing proteins consisting of WalK, SrrB, PhoR, ArlS, HssS, NreB, and GdpP. The exceptions to this rule are: 1) S. saprophyticus lacks the core NreB protein; 2) S. carnosus has two additional PAS domain containing proteins; 3) S. epidermidis, S. aureus, and S. pseudintermedius have an additional protein with two PDC domains that is predicted to code for a sensor histidine kinase; 4) S. lugdunensis has an additional PDC containing protein predicted to be a sensor histidine kinase.

Conclusions: This comprehensive analysis demonstrates that variation in PDC/PAS domains among bacteria has limited correlations to the genome size or pathogenicity; however, our analysis established that bacteria having a motile phase in their life cycle have significantly more PDC/PAS-containing proteins. In addition, our analysis revealed a tremendous amount of variation in the number of PDC/PAS-containing proteins within genera. This variation extended to the Staphylococcus genus, which had between 6 and 9 PDC/PAS proteins and some of these appear to be previously undescribed signaling proteins. This latter point is important because most staphylococcal proteins that contain PDC/PAS domains regulate virulence factor synthesis or antibiotic resistance.