Two-component regulatory systems represent the major paradigm for signal transduction in prokaryotes. The simplest systems are composed of a sensor kinase and a response regulator. The sensor is often a membrane protein that senses a change in environmental conditions and is autophosphorylated by ATP on a histidine residue. The phosphoryl group is transferred onto an aspartate of the response regulator, which activates the regulator and alters its output, usually resulting in a change in gene expression. In this review, we present a historical view of the archetype EnvZ/OmpR two-component signaling system, and then we provide a new view of signaling based on our recent experiments. EnvZ responds to cytoplasmic signals that arise from changes in the extracellular milieu, and OmpR acts canonically (requiring phosphorylation) to regulate the porin genes and noncanonically (without phosphorylation) to activate the acid stress response. Herein, we describe how insights gleaned from stimulus recognition and response in EnvZ are relevant to nearly all sensor kinases and response regulators.
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