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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Mar 26;110(13):5151-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1302662110. Epub 2013 Mar 11.

Conformation-specific labeling of BamA and suppressor analysis suggest a cyclic mechanism for β-barrel assembly in Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


In gram-negative bacteria, integral outer membrane β-barrel proteins (OMPs) are assembled by the beta-barrel assembly machine (Bam) complex. The essential components of this complex are the OMP BamA [which contains a carboxyl-terminal β-barrel and an amino-terminal periplasmic module composed of five polypeptide transport associated (POTRA) domains] and the lipoprotein BamD. In Escherichia coli, the Bam complex also contains three nonessential lipoproteins (BamBCE), all of which require the barrel-proximal POTRA domain (P5) for stable interactions with BamA. We have previously reported that the BamA β-barrel assumes two different conformations. A method for conformation-specific labeling of BamA described here reveals that these conformers reflect the degree of surface exposure of the conserved sixth extracellular loop (L6). L6 is surface accessible in one conformation but not in the other, likely because it occupies the lumen of the BamA β-barrel in the latter case. A gain-of-function mutation that promotes Bam activity (bamDR197L) and a loss-of-function mutation that decreases the activity of Bam (ΔbamE) both favor surface exposure of BamA L6, suggesting that BamD and BamE normally act to control L6 exposure through opposing functions. These results, along with the synthetic lethality of the bamDR197L ΔbamE double mutant, imply a cyclic mechanism in which the Bam lipoproteins regulate the conformation of BamA during the OMP assembly reaction. Our results further suggest that BamDE controls L6 exposure via conformational signals transmitted through P5 to L6.

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