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J Biol Chem. 2008 Sep 5;283(36):24600-7. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M802213200. Epub 2008 Jun 11.

Tuning the strength of a bacterial N-end rule degradation signal.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


The N-end rule is a degradation pathway conserved from bacteria to mammals that links a protein's stability in vivo to the identity of its N-terminal residue. In Escherichia coli, the components of this pathway directly responsible for protein degradation are the ClpAP protease and its adaptor ClpS. We recently demonstrated that ClpAP is able to recognize N-end motifs in the absence of ClpS although with significantly reduced substrate affinity. In this study, a systematic sequence analysis reveals new features of N-end rule degradation signals. To achieve specificity, recognition of an N-end motif by the protease-adaptor complex uses both the identity of the N-terminal residue and a free alpha-amino group. Acidic residues near the first residue decrease substrate affinity, demonstrating that the identity of adjacent residues can affect recognition although significant flexibility is tolerated. However, shortening the distance between the N-end residue and the stably folded portion of a protein prevents degradation entirely, indicating that an N-end signal alone is not always sufficient for degradation. Together, these data define in vitro the sequence and structural requirements for the function of bacterial N-end signals.

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