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Microbiology. 2010 Mar;156(Pt 3):742-56. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.035055-0. Epub 2009 Dec 3.

The BAM complex subunit BamE (SmpA) is required for membrane integrity, stalk growth and normal levels of outer membrane {beta}-barrel proteins in Caulobacter crescentus.

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Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, 111 Koshland Hall, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


The outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria is an essential compartment containing a specific complement of lipids and proteins that constitute a protective, selective permeability barrier. Outer membrane beta-barrel proteins are assembled into the membrane by the essential hetero-oligomeric BAM complex, which contains the lipoprotein BamE. We have identified a homologue of BamE, encoded by CC1365, which is located in the outer membrane of the stalked alpha-proteobacterium Caulobacter crescentus. BamE associates with proteins whose homologues in other bacteria are known to participate in outer membrane protein assembly: BamA (CC1915), BamB (CC1653) and BamD (CC1984). Caulobacter cells lacking BamE grow slowly in rich medium and are hypersensitive to anionic detergents, some antibiotics and heat exposure, which suggest that the membrane integrity of the mutant is compromised. Membranes of the DeltabamE mutant have normal amounts of the outer membrane protein RsaF, a TolC homologue, but are deficient in CpaC*, an aggregated form of the outer membrane secretin for type IV pili. Delta bamE membranes also contain greatly reduced amounts of three TonB-dependent receptors that are abundant in wild-type cells. Cells lacking BamE have short stalks and are delayed in stalk outgrowth during the cell cycle. Based on these findings, we propose that Caulobacter BamE participates in the assembly of outer membrane beta-barrel proteins, including one or more substrates required for the initiation of stalk biogenesis.

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