Small proteins in bacterial signaling networks

Dr. Jing Yuan


Research Area

We are interested in how bacteria sense and infect mammalian host with an emphasis on small proteins. Small proteins are involved in various biological processes, such as stress response, nutrient transport, photosynthesis, drug efflux, bacterial defense systems, cell-cell communication, and immuno-surveillance. One of the medical relevant functions of small proteins is the regulation of bacterial pathogenicity by targeting two-component signalling systems.

Two-component signalling systems are crucial for bacteria to survive and thrive in their natural habitats. Sensor kinases are the central part of two-component signal transduction systems. Some detect the mammalian host environment, leading to the expression of genes involved in membrane modification, antibiotic resistance, and the onset of bacterial pathogenicity. One such sensor kinase is PhoQ, the master regulator of the bacterial virulence program in Enterobacteriaceae. Sensor kinases are prevalent in prokaryotes and absent in mammals, making them interesting targets for new antimicrobials.

Using molecular, cellular, and synthetic approaches in combination with computational simulations and structural studies through collaborations, we aim to investigate the function of small proteins and utilize the knowledge to engineer new antimicrobials.

We currently aim to answer the following questions:

  • What are the regulation mechanisms of small proteins?
  • How do small proteins regulate bacterial infection?
  • Can we engineer small proteins to suppress bacterial virulence?
  • How to uncover the function of newly discovered small proteins?


Recent Publications

Srujana S Yadavalli, Jing Yuan (2021)
Bacterial Small Membrane Proteins: the Swiss Army Knife of Regulators at the Lipid Bilayer
Epub; 204(1):e0034421.

Srujana S Yadavalli, Ted Goh, Jeffrey N Carey, Gabriele Malengo, Sangeevan Vellappan, Bryce E Nickels, Victor Sourjik, Mark Goulian, Jing Yuan (2020)
Functional determinants of a small protein controlling a broadly conserved bacterial sensor kinase
J Bacteriol 1 ;JB.00305-20; online ahead of print

Jing Yuan*, Fan Jin, Timo Glatter, Victor Sourjik*. (2017)
Osmosensing by the bacterial PhoQ/PhoP two-component system. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 114 (50): E10792-10798. (*Corresponding authors)

Liu Y, Dos Santos PC, Zhu X, Orlando R, Dean DR, Söll D, Yuan J. (2012)
Catalytic mechanism of Sep-tRNA:Cys-tRNA synthase: sulfur transfer is mediated by disulfide and persulfide. J Biol Chem, 287, 5426-5433.

Yuan J, Gogakos T, Babina AM, Söll D, Randau L. (2011)
Change of tRNA identity leads to a divergent orthogonal histidyl-tRNA synthetase/tRNAHis pair. Nucleic Acids Res, 39, 2286-2293.

Yuan J, Hohn MJ, Sherrer RL, Palioura S, Su D, Söll D. (2010)
A tRNA-dependent cysteine biosynthesis enzyme recognizes the selenocysteine-specific tRNA in Escherichia coli. FEBS Lett, 584, 2857-2861.

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