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J Biol Chem. 2001 Apr 20;276(16):13025-33. Epub 2001 Jan 19.

Exchangeability of N termini in the ligand-gated porins of Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 73019, USA.


The ferric siderophore transporters of the Gram-negative bacterial outer membrane manifest a unique architecture: Their N termini fold into a globular domain that lodges within, and physically obstructs, a transmembrane porin beta-barrel formed by their C termini. We exchanged and deleted the N termini of two such siderophore receptors, FepA and FhuA, which recognize and transport ferric enterobactin and ferrichrome, respectively. The resultant chimeric proteins and empty beta-barrels avidly bound appropriate ligands, including iron complexes, protein toxins, and viruses. Thus, the ability to recognize and discriminate these molecules fully originates in the transmembrane beta-barrel domain. Both the hybrid and the deletion proteins also transported the ferric siderophore that they bound. The FepA constructs showed less transport activity than wild type receptor protein, but the FhuA constructs functioned with turnover numbers that were equivalent to wild type. The mutant proteins displayed the full range of transport functionalities, despite their aberrant or missing N termini, confirming (Braun, M., Killmann, H., and Braun, V. (1999) Mol. Microbiol. 33, 1037-1049) that the globular domain within the pore is dispensable to the siderophore internalization reaction, and when present, acts without specificity during solute uptake. These and other data suggest a transport process in which siderophore receptors undergo multiple conformational states that ultimately expel the N terminus from the channel concomitant with solute internalization.

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