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J Biol Chem. 2004 Jan 9;279(2):1090-9. Epub 2003 Oct 23.

Functional characterization of an archaeal GroEL/GroES chaperonin system: significance of substrate encapsulation.

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Department of Cellular Biochemistry, Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry, Am Klopferspitz 18a, D-82152 Martinsried, Germany.


In all three kingdoms of life chaperonins assist the folding of a range of newly synthesized proteins. As shown recently, Archaea of the genus Methanosarcina contain both group I (GroEL/GroES) and group II (thermosome) chaperonins in the cytosol. Here we report on a detailed functional analysis of the archaeal GroEL/GroES system of Methanosarcina mazei (Mm) in comparison to its bacterial counterpart from Escherichia coli (Ec). We find that the groESgroEL operon of M. mazei is unable to functionally replace groESgroEL in E. coli. However, the MmGroES protein can largely complement a mutant EcGroES protein in vivo. The ATPase rate of MmGroEL is very low and the dissociation of MmGroES from MmGroEL is 15 times slower than for the EcGroEL/GroES system. This slow ATPase cycle results in a prolonged enclosure time for model substrate proteins, such as rhodanese, in the MmGroEL:GroES folding cage before their release into the medium. Interestingly, optimal functionality of MmGroEL/GroES and its ability to encapsulate larger proteins, such as malate dehydrogenase, requires the presence of ammonium sulfate in vitro. In the absence of ammonium sulfate, malate dehydrogenase fails to be encapsulated by GroES and rather cycles on and off the GroEL trans ring in a non-productive reaction. These results indicate that the archaeal GroEL/GroES system has preserved the basic encapsulation mechanism of bacterial GroEL and suggest that it has adjusted the length of its reaction cycle to the slower growth rates of Archaea. Additionally, the release of only the folded protein from the GroEL/GroES cage may prevent adverse interactions of the GroEL substrates with the thermosome, which is not normally located within the same compartment.

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