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J Bacteriol. 2010 Nov;192(22):5934-42. doi: 10.1128/JB.00936-10. Epub 2010 Sep 24.

Interaction of the colicin K bactericidal toxin with components of its import machinery in the periplasm of Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Ingénierie des Systèmes Macromoléculaires, Institut de Microbiologie de la Méditerranée, Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS-UPR 9027, Marseille, France.


Colicins are bacterial antibiotic toxins produced by Escherichia coli cells and are active against E. coli and closely related strains. To penetrate the target cell, colicins bind to an outer membrane receptor at the cell surface and then translocate their N-terminal domain through the outer membrane and the periplasm. Once fully translocated, the N-terminal domain triggers entry of the catalytic C-terminal domain by an unknown process. Colicin K uses the Tsx nucleoside-specific receptor for binding at the cell surface, the OmpA protein for translocation through the outer membrane, and the TolABQR proteins for the transit through the periplasm. Here, we initiated studies to understand how the colicin K N-terminal domain (KT) interacts with the components of its transit machine in the periplasm. We first produced KT fused to a signal sequence for periplasm targeting. Upon production of KT in wild-type strains, cells became partly resistant to Tol-dependent colicins and sensitive to detergent, released periplasmic proteins, and outer membrane vesicles, suggesting that KT interacts with and titrates components of its import machine. Using a combination of in vivo coimmunoprecipitations and in vitro pulldown experiments, we demonstrated that KT interacts with the TolA, TolB, and TolR proteins. For the first time, we also identified an interaction between the TolQ protein and a colicin translocation domain.

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