Open Access Research article

Reductive evolution and the loss of PDC/PAS domains from the genus Staphylococcus

Neethu Shah1, Rosmarie Gaupp2, Hideaki Moriyama3, Kent M Eskridge4, Etsuko N Moriyama5* and Greg A Somerville2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588-0115, USA

2 School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0905, USA

3 School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588-0118, USA

4 Department of Statistics, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0963, USA

5 School of Biological Sciences and Center for Plant Science Innovation, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588-0118, USA

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:524  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-524

Published: 31 July 2013



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).


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.


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.

Staphylococcus; PAS domain; Molecular evolution; Phylogeny