PII superfamily consists of widespread signal transduction proteins found in all domains of life. Whereas they are well-studied in Archaea, Bacteria and Chloroplastida, no PII homolog has been analyzed in Rhodophyta (red algae), where PII is encoded by a chloroplast localized glnB gene. Here, we characterized relevant sensory properties of PII from the red alga Porphyra purpurea (PpPII) in comparison to PII proteins from different phyla of oxygenic phototrophs (cyanobacteria, Chlamydomonas and Physcomitrella) to assess evolutionary conservation versus adaptive properties. Like its cyanobacterial counterparts, PpPII binds ATP/ADP and 2-oxoglutarate in synergy with ATP. However, green algae and land plant PII proteins lost the ability to bind ADP. In contrast to PII proteins from green algae and land plants, PpPII enhances the activity of N-acetyl-L-glutamate kinase (NAGK) and relieves it from feedback inhibition by arginine in a glutamine-independent manner. Like PII from Chloroplastida, PpPII is not able to interact with the cyanobacterial transcriptional co-activator PipX. These data emphasize the conserved role of NAGK as a major PII-interactor throughout the evolution of oxygenic phototrophs, and confirms the specific role of PipX for cyanobacteria. Our results highlight the PII signaling system in red algae as an evolutionary intermediate between Cyanobacteria and Chlorophyta.
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