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J Bioenerg Biomembr. 1990 Jun;22(3):401-39.

Export of the periplasmic maltose-binding protein of Escherichia coli.

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  • Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599-7290.


The export of the maltose-binding protein (MBP), the malE gene product, to the periplasm of Escherichia coli cells has been extensively investigated. The isolation of strains synthesizing MalE-LacZ hybrid proteins led to a novel genetic selection for mutants that accumulate export-defective precursor MBP (preMBP) in the cytoplasm. The export defects were subsequently shown to result from alterations in the MBP signal peptide. Analysis of these and a variety of mutants obtained in other ways has provided considerable insight into the requirements for an optimally functional MBP signal peptide. This structure has been shown to have multiple roles in the export process, including promoting entry of preMBP into the export pathway and initiating MBP translocation across the cytoplasmic membrane. The latter has been shown to be a late event relative to synthesis and can occur entirely posttranslationally, even many minutes after the completion of synthesis. Translocation requires that the MBP polypeptide exist in an export-competent conformation that most likely represents an unfolded state that is not inhibitory to membrane transit. The signal peptide contributes to the export competence of preMBP by slowing the rate at which the attached mature moiety folds. In addition, preMBP folding is thought to be further retarded by the binding of a cytoplasmic protein, SecB, to the mature moiety of nascent preMBP. In cells lacking this antifolding factor, MBP export represents a race between delivery of newly synthesized, export-competent preMBP to the translocation machinery in the cytoplasmic membrane and folding of preMBP into an export-incompetent conformation. SecB is one of three E. coli proteins classified as "molecular chaperones" by their ability to stabilize precursor proteins for membrane translocation.

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