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J Bacteriol. 1983 Oct;156(1):402-8.

Outer membrane porins are important in maintenance of the surface structure of Escherichia coli cells.


Escherichia coli cells lacking the OmpF and OmpC proteins, porin proteins of the outer membrane, are often unstable and easily revert to strains which either have regained one or both of these proteins or contain a new outer membrane protein. The structural importance of porin proteins in the cell surface was studied in the present work. Tris-hydrochloride buffer at a concentration of 120 mM caused deformation of the cell surface of a strain lacking these porins; the undulated appearance of the negatively stained cell surface changed to a smooth and expanded form. The Tris-induced deformation was seldom observed with either the wild-type strain or a pseudorevertant that possessed the OmpF protein. The role of the OmpF protein in stabilizing the cell surface against Tris treatment could be slightly taken over by the LamB protein, which shares a number of unique properties with the former proteins. The deformation of the cell surface by Tris-hydrochloride buffer was accompanied by a loss of viability, the lethal damage being especially significant when the cells lacked porins. Upon induction with maltose, cells with the undulated appearance could absorb lambda phages, whereas the deformed cells could not. These results suggest that the instability of cells lacking porins is primarily due to a structural defect of the outer membrane.

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