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Mol Microbiol. 2002 Aug;45(4):943-50.

Adaptation of protein secretion to extremely high-salt conditions by extensive use of the twin-arginine translocation pathway.

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Department of Biology, Leidy Laboratories, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Halophilic archaea thrive in environments with salt concentrations approaching saturation. However, little is known about the way in which these organisms stabilize their secreted proteins in such 'hostile' conditions. Here, we present data suggesting that the utilization of protein translocation pathways for protein secretion by the Halobacteriaceae differs significantly from that of non-haloarchaea, and most probably represents an adaptation to the high-salt environment. Although most proteins are secreted via the general secretion (Sec) machinery, the twin-arginine translocation (Tat) pathway is mainly used for the secretion of redox proteins and is distinct from the Sec pathway, in that it allows cytoplasmic folding of secreted proteins. tatfind (developed in this study) was used for systematic whole-genome analysis of Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 and several other prokaryotes to identify putative Tat substrates. Our analyses revealed that the vast majority of haloarchaeal secreted proteins were predicted substrates of the Tat pathway. Strikingly, most of these putative Tat substrates were non-redox proteins, the homologues of which in non-haloarchaea were identified as putative Sec substrates. We confirmed experimentally that the secretion of one such putative Tat substrate depended on the twin-arginine motif in its signal sequence. This extensive utilization of the Tat pathway in haloarchaea suggests an evolutionary adaptation to high-salt conditions by allowing cytoplasmic folding of secreted proteins before their secretion.

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