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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2004 Nov 11;1694(1-3):311-27.

Post-translocational folding of secretory proteins in Gram-positive bacteria.

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Laboratory of Vaccine Development, National Public Health Institute (KTL), FIN-00300, Helsinki, Finland.


The transport of proteins from their site of synthesis in the cytoplasm to their functional location is an essential characteristic of all living cells. In Gram-positive bacteria the majority of proteins that are translocated across the cytoplasmic membrane are delivered to the membrane-cell wall interface in an essentially unfolded form. They must then be folded into their native configuration in an environment that is dominated by a high density of immobilised negative charge-in essence an ion exchange resin. It is essential to the viability of the cell that these proteins do not block the translocation machinery in the membrane, form illegitimate interactions with the cell wall or, through intermolecular interactions, form insoluble aggregates. Native Gram-positive proteins therefore have intrinsic folding characteristics that facilitate their rapid folding, and this is assisted by a variety of folding factors, including enzymes, peptides and metal ions. Despite these intrinsic and extrinsic factors, secretory proteins do misfold, particularly if the cell is subjected to certain types of stress. Consequently, Gram-positive bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis encode membrane- and cell wall-associated proteases that act as a quality control machine, clearing misfolded or otherwise aberrant proteins from the translocase and the cell wall.

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