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Cell Calcium. 2002 Oct;32(4):183-92.

Direct measurement of free Ca(2+) shows different regulation of Ca(2+) between the periplasm and the cytosol of Escherichia coli.

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Department of Medical Biochemistry, University of Wales College of Medicine, CF14 4XN, Cardiff, UK.


As in eukaryotes, bacterial free Ca(2+) can play an important role as an intracellular signal. However, because free Ca(2+) is difficult to measure in live bacteria, most of the evidence for such a role is indirect. Gram-negative bacteria also have an outer membrane separating the external fluid from the periplasm as well as the cytosol where most bacterial metabolism takes place. Here we report, for the first time, direct measurement of free Ca(2+) in the periplasmic space of living Escherichia coli. Periplasmic free Ca(2+) was measured by targeting the Ca(2+)-activated photoprotein aequorin to this compartment using the N-terminal OmpT signal sequence. Cytosolic free Ca(2+) was determined using aequorin alone. We show that, under certain conditions, the periplasm can concentrate free Ca(2+), resulting in the inner membrane being exposed to free Ca(2+) concentrations several fold higher than in the bulk external fluid. Manipulation of periplasmic membrane-derived oligosaccharides (MDOs) altered the free Ca(2+) as predicted by the Donnan potential. With micromolar concentrations of external free Ca(2+), the periplasm concentrated free Ca (2+) some three to sixfold with respect to the external medium. A Ca(2+) gradient also existed between the periplasm and the cytosol under these conditions, the periplasmic free Ca(2+) being some one to threefold higher. At millimolar levels of external free Ca(2+), a similar concentration was detected in the periplasm, but the bacteria still maintained tight control of cytosolic free Ca(2+) in the micromolar range. We propose that the highly anionic MDOs in the periplasmic space generate a Donnan potential, capable of concentrating Ca(2+) in this compartment, where it may constitute a sink for regulation of Ca(2+)-dependent processes in the cytoplasm.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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