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J Bacteriol. 2005 May;187(9):2983-91.

Use of thioredoxin as a reporter to identify a subset of Escherichia coli signal sequences that promote signal recognition particle-dependent translocation.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


We have previously reported that the DsbA signal sequence promotes efficient, cotranslational translocation of the cytoplasmic protein thioredoxin-1 via the bacterial signal recognition particle (SRP) pathway. However, two commonly used signal sequences, those of PhoA and MalE, which promote export by a posttranslational mechanism, do not export thioredoxin. We proposed that this difference in efficiency of export was due to the rapid folding of thioredoxin in the cytoplasm; cotranslational export by the DsbA signal sequence avoids the problem of cytoplasmic folding (C. F. Schierle, M. Berkmen, D. Huber, C. Kumamoto, D. Boyd, and J. Beckwith, J. Bacteriol. 185:5706-5713, 2003). Here, we use thioredoxin as a reporter to distinguish SRP-dependent from non-SRP-dependent cleavable signal sequences. We screened signal sequences exhibiting a range of hydrophobicity values based on a method that estimates hydrophobicity. Successive iterations of screening and refining the method defined a threshold hydrophobicity required for SRP recognition. While all of the SRP-dependent signal sequences identified were above this threshold, there were also a few signal sequences above the threshold that did not utilize the SRP pathway. These results suggest that a simple measure of the hydrophobicity of a signal sequence is an important but not a sufficient indicator for SRP recognition. In addition, by fusing a number of both classes of signal sequences to DsbA, we found that DsbA utilizes an SRP-dependent signal sequence to achieve efficient export to the periplasm. Our results suggest that those proteins found to be exported by SRP-dependent signal sequences may require this mode of export because of their tendency to fold rapidly in the cytoplasm.

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