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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2001 Aug;25(4):437-54.

Translocation of proteins across the cell envelope of Gram-positive bacteria.

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Department of Microbiology, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, 9751 NN Haren, The Netherlands.


In contrast to Gram-negative bacteria, secretory proteins of Gram-positive bacteria only need to traverse a single membrane to enter the extracellular environment. For this reason, Gram-positive bacteria (e.g. various Bacillus species) are often used in industry for the commercial production of extracellular proteins that can be produced in yields of several grams per liter culture medium. The central components of the main protein translocation system (Sec system) of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria show a high degree of conservation, suggesting similar functions and working mechanisms. Despite this fact, several differences can be identified such as the absence of a clear homolog of the secretion-specific chaperone SecB in Gram-positive bacteria. The now available detailed insight into the organization of the Gram-positive protein secretion system and how it differs from the well-characterized system of Escherichia coli may in the future facilitate the exploitation of these organisms in the high level production of heterologous proteins which, so far, is sometimes very inefficient due to one or more bottlenecks in the secretion pathway. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the various steps of the protein secretion pathway of Gram-positive bacteria with emphasis on Bacillus subtilis, which during the last decade, has arisen as a model system for the study of protein secretion in this industrially important class of microorganisms.

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