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J Biol Chem. 2001 Mar 16;276(11):8159-64. Epub 2000 Nov 30.

Translocation of jellyfish green fluorescent protein via the Tat system of Escherichia coli and change of its periplasmic localization in response to osmotic up-shock.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Chimie Bactérienne, UPR9043, Institut de Biologie Structurale et Microbiologie, CNRS, 31 chemin Joseph Aiguier, F-13402 Marseille cedex 20, France.


The bacterial twin arginine translocation (Tat) pathway is capable of exporting cofactor-containing enzymes into the periplasm. To assess the capacity of the Tat pathway to export heterologous proteins and to gain information about the property of the periplasm, we fused the twin arginine signal peptide of the trimethylamine N-oxide reductase to the jellyfish green fluorescent protein (GFP). Unlike the Sec pathway, the Tat system successfully exported correctly folded GFP into the periplasm of Escherichia coli. Interestingly, GFP appeared as a halo in most cells and occasionally showed a polar localization in wild type strains. When subjected to a mild osmotic up-shock, GFP relocalized very quickly at the two poles of the cells. The conversion from the halo structure to a periplasmic gathering at particular locations was also observed with spherical cells of the DeltarodA-pbpA mutant or of the wild type strain treated with lysozyme. Therefore, the periplasm is not a uniform compartment and the polarization of GFP is unlikely to be caused by simple invagination of the cytoplasmic membrane at the poles. Moreover, the polar gathering of GFP is reversible; the reversion was accelerated by glucose and inhibited by azide and carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone, indicating an active adaptation of the bacteria to the osmolarity in the medium. These results strongly suggest a relocalization of periplasmic substances in response to environmental changes. The polar area might be the preferential zone where bacteria sense the change in the environment.

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