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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jan 16;104(3):1003-8. Epub 2007 Jan 10.

Rhomboid protease AarA mediates quorum-sensing in Providencia stuartii by activating TatA of the twin-arginine translocase.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University School of Medicine, 1510 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


The Providencia stuartii AarA protein is a member of the rhomboid family of intramembrane serine proteases and is required for the production of an unknown quorum-sensing molecule. In a screen to identify rhomboid-encoding genes from Proteus mirabilis, tatA was identified as a multicopy suppressor and restored extracellular signal production as well as complementing all other phenotypes of a Prov. stuartii aarA mutant. TatA is a component of the twin-arginine translocase (Tat) protein secretion pathway and likely forms a secretion pore. By contrast, the native tatA gene of Prov. stuartii in multicopy did not suppress an aarA mutation. We find that TatA in Prov. stuartii has a short N-terminal extension that was atypical of TatA proteins from most other bacteria. This extension was proteolytically removed by AarA both in vivo and in vitro. A Prov. stuartii TatA protein missing the first 7 aa restored the ability to rescue the aarA-dependent phenotypes. To verify that loss of the Tat system was responsible for the various phenotypes exhibited by an aarA mutant, a tatC-null allele was constructed. The tatC mutant exhibited the same phenotypes as an aarA mutant and was epistatic to aarA. These data provide a molecular explanation for the requirement of AarA in quorum-sensing and uncover a function for the Tat protein export system in the production of secreted signaling molecules. Finally, TatA represents a validated natural substrate for a prokaryotic rhomboid protease.

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