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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jan 9;104(2):462-6. Epub 2006 Dec 26.

Structural basis for intramembrane proteolysis by rhomboid serine proteases.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Intramembrane proteases catalyze peptide bond cleavage of integral membrane protein substrates. This activity is crucial for many biological and pathological processes. Rhomboids are evolutionarily widespread intramembrane serine proteases. Here, we present the 2.3-A-resolution crystal structure of a rhomboid from Escherichia coli. The enzyme has six transmembrane helices, five of which surround a short TM4, which starts deep within the membrane at the catalytic serine residue. Thus, the catalytic serine is in an externally exposed cavity, which provides a hydrophilic environment for proteolysis. Our results reveal a mechanism to enable water-dependent catalysis at the depth of the hydrophobic milieu of the membrane and suggest how substrates gain access to the sequestered rhomboid active site.

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