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J Biol Chem. 2009 Dec 4;284(49):34376-81. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.053033. Epub 2009 Oct 2.

Crystal structure of the MecA degradation tag.

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Ministry of Education Protein Science Laboratory, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.


MecA is an adaptor protein that regulates the assembly and activity of the ATP-dependent ClpCP protease in Bacillus subtilis. MecA contains two domains. Although the amino-terminal domain of MecA recruits substrate proteins such as ComK and ComS, the carboxyl-terminal domain (residues 121-218) has dual roles in the regulation and function of ClpCP protease. MecA-(121-218) facilitates the assembly of ClpCP oligomer, which is required for the protease activity of ClpCP. This domain was identified to be a non-recycling degradation tag that targets heterologous fusion proteins to the ClpCP protease for degradation. To elucidate the mechanism of MecA, we determined the crystal structure of MecA-(121-218) at 2.2 A resolution, which reveals a previously uncharacterized alpha/beta fold. Structure-guided mutagenesis allows identification of surface residues that are essential for the function of MecA. We also solved the structure of a carboxyl-terminal domain of YpbH, a paralogue of MecA in B. subtilis, at 2.4 A resolution. Despite low sequence identity, the two structures share essentially the same fold. The presence of MecA homologues in other bacterial species suggests conservation of a large family of unique degradation tags.

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