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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2004 Nov 11;1694(1-3):235-57.

Protein secretion through autotransporter and two-partner pathways.

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INSERM U629, Institut de Biologie de Lille, Institut Pasteur de Lille, 1 rue Calmette, 59019 Lille Cedex, France. <>


Two distinct protein secretion pathways, the autotransporter (AT) and the two-partner secretion (TPS) pathways are characterized by their apparent simplicity. Both are devoted to the translocation across the outer membrane of mostly large proteins or protein domains. As implied by their name, AT proteins contain their own transporter domain, covalently attached to the C-terminal extremity of the secreted passenger domain, while TPS systems are composed of two separate proteins, with TpsA being the secreted protein and TpsB its specific transporter. In both pathways, the secreted proteins are exported in a Sec-dependent manner across the inner membrane, after which they cross the outer membrane with the help of their cognate transporters. The AT translocator domains and the TpsB proteins constitute distinct families of protein-translocating, outer membrane porins of Gram-negative bacteria. Both types of transporters insert into the outer membrane as beta-barrel proteins possibly forming oligomeric pores in the case of AT and serve as conduits for their cognate secreted proteins or domains across the outer membrane. Translocation appears to be folding-sensitive in both pathways, indicating that AT passenger domains and TpsA proteins cross the periplasm and the outer membrane in non-native conformations and fold progressively at the cell surface. A major difference between AT and TPS pathways arises from the manner by which specificity is established between the secreted protein and its transporter. In AT, the covalent link between the passenger and the translocator domains ensures the translocation of the former without the need for a specific molecular recognition between the two modules. In contrast, the TPS pathway has solved the question of specific recognition between the TpsA proteins and their transporters by the addition to the TpsA proteins of an N-proximal module, the conserved TPS domain, which represents a hallmark of the TPS pathway.

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