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EMBO J. 2001 Mar 1;20(5):1042-50.

Its substrate specificity characterizes the DnaJ co-chaperone as a scanning factor for the DnaK chaperone.

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Institut für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie, Universität Freiburg, Germany.


The evolutionarily conserved DnaJ proteins are essential components of Hsp70 chaperone systems. The DnaJ homologue of Escherichia coli associates with chaperone substrates and mediates their ATP hydrolysis-dependent locking into the binding cavity of its Hsp70 partner, DnaK. To determine the substrate specificity of DnaJ proteins, we screened 1633 peptides derived from 14 protein sequences for binding to E.coli DnaJ. The binding motif of DnaJ consists of a hydrophobic core of approximately eight residues enriched for aromatic and large aliphatic hydrophobic residues and arginine. The hydrophobicity of this motif explains why DnaJ itself can prevent protein aggregation. Although this motif shows differences from DnaK's binding motif, DnaJ and DnaK share the majority of binding peptides. In contrast to DnaK, DnaJ binds peptides consisting of L- and D-amino acids, and therefore is not restricted by backbone contacts. These features allow DnaJ to scan hydrophobic protein surfaces and initiate the functional cycle of the DnaK system by associating with hydrophobic exposed patches and subsequent targeting of DnaK to these or to hydrophobic patches in spatial neighbourhood.

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