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Mol Microbiol. 2002 Apr;44(1):271-81.

Quantification of known components of the Escherichia coli TonB energy transduction system: TonB, ExbB, ExbD and FepA.

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School of Molecular Biosciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-4234, USA.


The TonB-dependent energy transduction system couples cytoplasmic membrane proton motive force to active transport of iron-siderophore complexes across the outer membrane in Gram-negative bacteria. In Escherichia coli, the primary players known in this process to date are: FepA, the TonB-gated transporter for the siderophore enterochelin; TonB, the energy-transducing protein; and two cytoplasmic membrane proteins with less defined roles, ExbB and ExbD. In this study, we report the per cell numbers of TonB, ExbB, ExbD and FepA for cells grown under iron-replete and iron-limited conditions. Under iron-replete conditions, TonB and FepA were present at 335 +/- 78 and 504 +/- 165 copies per cell respectively. ExbB and ExbD, despite being encoded from the same operon, were not equimolar, being present at 2463 +/- 522 and 741 +/- 105 copies respectively. The ratio of these proteins was calculated at one TonB:two ExbD:seven ExbB under all four growth conditions tested. In contrast, the TonB:FepA ratio varied with iron status and according to the method used for iron limitation. Differences in the method of iron limitation also resulted in significant differences in cell size, skewing the per cell copy numbers for all proteins.

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