Phyletic Distribution and Diversification of the Phage Shock Protein Stress Response System in Bacteria and Archaea


Maintaining cell envelope integrity is of vital importance for all microorganisms. Not surprisingly, evolution has shaped conserved protein protection networks that connect stress perception, transmembrane signal transduction, and mediation of cellular responses upon cell envelope stress. The phage shock protein (Psp) stress response is one such conserved protection network. Most knowledge about the Psp response derives from studies in the Gram-negative model bacterium Escherichia coli, where the Psp system consists of several well-defined protein components. Homologous systems were identified in representatives of the Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Firmicutes. However, the Psp system distribution in the microbial world remains largely unknown. By carrying out a large-scale, unbiased comparative genomics analysis, we found components of the Psp system in many bacterial and archaeal phyla and describe that the predicted Psp systems deviate dramatically from the known prototypes. The core proteins PspA and PspC have been integrated into various (often phylum-specifically) conserved protein networks during evolution. Based on protein domain-based and gene neighborhood analyses of pspA and pspC homologs, we built a natural classification system for Psp networks in bacteria and archaea. We validate our approach by performing a comprehensive in vivo protein interaction study of Psp domains identified in the Gram-positive model organism Bacillus subtilis and found a strong interconnected protein network. Our study highlights the diversity of Psp domain organizations and potentially diverse functions across the plethora of the microbial landscape, thus laying the ground for studies beyond known Psp functions in underrepresented organisms.