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J Bacteriol. 2008 Jun;190(11):4001-16. doi: 10.1128/JB.00135-08. Epub 2008 Apr 4.

Insight from TonB hybrid proteins into the mechanism of iron transport through the outer membrane.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Oklahoma, 620 Parrington Oval, Norman, OK 73019, USA.

Abstract

We created hybrid proteins to study the functions of TonB. We first fused the portion of Escherichia coli tonB that encodes the C-terminal 69 amino acids (amino acids 170 to 239) of TonB downstream from E. coli malE (MalE-TonB69C). Production of MalE-TonB69C in tonB(+) bacteria inhibited siderophore transport. After overexpression and purification of the fusion protein on an amylose column, we proteolytically released the TonB C terminus and characterized it. Fluorescence spectra positioned its sole tryptophan (W213) in a weakly polar site in the protein interior, shielded from quenchers. Affinity chromatography showed the binding of the TonB C-domain to other proteins: immobilized TonB-dependent (FepA and colicin B) and TonB-independent (FepADelta3-17, OmpA, and lysozyme) proteins adsorbed MalE-TonB69C, revealing a general affinity of the C terminus for other proteins. Additional constructions fused full-length TonB upstream or downstream of green fluorescent protein (GFP). TonB-GFP constructs had partial functionality but no fluorescence; GFP-TonB fusion proteins were functional and fluorescent. The activity of the latter constructs, which localized GFP in the cytoplasm and TonB in the cell envelope, indicate that the TonB N terminus remains in the inner membrane during its biological function. Finally, sequence analyses revealed homology in the TonB C terminus to E. coli YcfS, a proline-rich protein that contains the lysin (LysM) peptidoglycan-binding motif. LysM structural mimicry occurs in two positions of the dimeric TonB C-domain, and experiments confirmed that it physically binds to the murein sacculus. Together, these findings infer that the TonB N terminus remains associated with the inner membrane, while the downstream region bridges the cell envelope from the affinity of the C terminus for peptidoglycan. This architecture suggests a membrane surveillance model of action, in which TonB finds occupied receptor proteins by surveying the underside of peptidoglycan-associated outer membrane proteins.

PMID:
18390658
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2395051
Free PMC Article

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