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J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 20;277(38):34736-42. Epub 2002 Jul 16.

Transmembrane topology of AgrB, the protein involved in the post-translational modification of AgrD in Staphylococcus aureus.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland 20814, USA.


The accessory gene regulator (agr) of Staphylococcus aureus is the central regulatory system that controls the gene expression for a large set of virulence factors. This global regulatory locus consists of two transcripts: RNAII and RNAIII. RNAII encodes four genes (agrA, B, C, and D) whose gene products assemble a quorum sensing system. RNAIII is the effector of the Agr response. Both the agrB and agrD genes are essential for the production of the autoinducing peptide, which functions as a signal for the quorum sensing system. In this study, we demonstrated the transmembrane nature of AgrB protein in S. aureus. A transmembrane topology model of AgrB was proposed based on AgrB-PhoA fusion analyses in Escherichia coli. Two hydrophilic regions with several highly conserved positively charged amino acid residues among various AgrBs were found to be located in the cytoplasmic membrane as suggested by PhoA-AgrB fusion studies. However, this finding is inconsistent with the putative transmembrane profile of AgrB by computer analysis. Furthermore, we detected an intermediate peptide of processed AgrD from S. aureus cells expressing AgrB and a 6 histidine-tagged AgrD. These results provide direct evidence that AgrB is involved in the proteolytic processing of AgrD. We speculate that AgrB is a novel protein with proteolytic enzyme activity and a transporter facilitating the export of the processed AgrD peptide.

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