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J Bacteriol. 1999 Jun;181(12):3681-7.

Redundant in vivo proteolytic activities of Escherichia coli Lon and the ClpYQ (HslUV) protease.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-4255, USA.


The ClpYQ (HslUV) ATP-dependent protease of Escherichia coli consists of an ATPase subunit closely related to the Clp ATPases and a protease component related to those found in the eukaryotic proteasome. We found that this protease has a substrate specificity overlapping that of the Lon protease, another ATP-dependent protease in which a single subunit contains both the proteolytic active site and the ATPase. Lon is responsible for the degradation of the cell division inhibitor SulA; lon mutants are UV sensitive, due to the stabilization of SulA. lon mutants are also mucoid, due to the stabilization of another Lon substrate, the positive regulator of capsule transcription, RcsA. The overproduction of ClpYQ suppresses both of these phenotypes, and the suppression of UV sensitivity is accompanied by a restoration of the rapid degradation of SulA. Inactivation of the chromosomal copy of clpY or clpQ leads to further stabilization of SulA in a lon mutant but not in lon+ cells. While either lon, lon clpY, or lon clpQ mutants are UV sensitive at low temperatures, at elevated temperatures the lon mutant loses its UV sensitivity, while the double mutants do not. Therefore, the degradation of SulA by ClpYQ at elevated temperatures is sufficient to lead to UV resistance. Thus, a protease with a structure and an active site different from those of Lon is capable of recognizing and degrading two different Lon substrates and appears to act as a backup for Lon under certain conditions.

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