A nonequilibrium allostericmodel for receptor-kinase complexes: The role of energy dissipation in chemotaxis signaling

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The Escherichia coli chemotaxis signaling pathway has served as a model system for the adaptive sensing of environmental signals by large protein complexes. The chemoreceptors control the kinase activity of CheA in response to the extracellular ligand concentration and adapt across a wide concentration range by undergoing methylation and demethylation. Methylation shifts the kinase response curve by orders of magnitude in ligand concentration while incurring a much smaller change in the ligand binding curve. Here, we show that the disproportionate shift in binding and kinase response is inconsistent with equilibrium allosteric models. To resolve this inconsistency, we present a nonequilibrium allosteric model that explicitly includes the dissipative reaction cycles driven by adenosine triphosphate (ATP) hydrolysis. The model successfully explains all existing joint measurements of ligand binding, receptor conformation, and kinase activity for both aspartate and serine receptors. Our results suggest that the receptor complex acts as an enzyme: Receptor methylation modulates the ON-state kinetics of the kinase (e.g., phosphorylation rate), while ligand binding controls the equilibrium balance between kinaseON/OFFstates. Furthermore, sufficient energy dissipation is responsible for maintaining and enhancing the sensitivity range and amplitude of the kinase response. We demonstrate that the nonequilibrium allosteric model is broadly applicable to other sensor-kinase systems by successfully fitting previously unexplained data from the DosP bacterial oxygen-sensing system. Overall, this work provides a nonequilibrium physics perspective on cooperative sensing by large protein complexes and opens up research directions for understanding their microscopic mechanisms through simultaneous measurements and modeling of ligand binding and downstream responses.