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J Biochem. 2009 Oct;146(4):449-54. doi: 10.1093/jb/mvp071. Epub 2009 May 19.

Quality control of cytoplasmic membrane proteins in Escherichia coli.

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Institute for Virus Research, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8507, Japan.


In Escherichia coli, like in any organism, the cytoplasmic (inner or plasma) membrane proteins play essential roles in transport of small and macro-molecules as well as in transmission of environmental signals across the membrane. Their quality control is critically important for growth and survival of the cell. However, our knowledge about the players and mechanisms of the system is still limited. This review focuses on proteolytic quality control of membrane proteins, in which two membrane-integrated proteases, FtsH and HtpX, with different modes of action, play central roles. The prohibitin family membrane protein complexes (HflKC and QmcA) contribute to the quality control system as a regulatory factor of FtsH and also as a possible membrane-chaperone. Failure of the quality control system to function normally leads to accumulation of malfolded cytoplasmic membrane proteins, which in turn activate the stress response pathways previously believed to be specialized for sensing protein abnormalities outside the cytoplasmic membrane. In fact, many of the cytoplasmic membrane quality control factors are stress induced. Further characterization of them as well as of the stress-sensing mechanisms would prove useful to obtain an integrated picture of the membrane protein quality control system.

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