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J Bacteriol. 2011 Dec;193(24):6983-94. doi: 10.1128/JB.05813-11. Epub 2011 Oct 14.

The extended signal peptide of the trimeric autotransporter EmaA of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans modulates secretion.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, USA.


The extracellular matrix protein adhesin A (EmaA) of the Gram-negative bacterium Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans is a fibrillar collagen adhesin belonging to the family of trimeric autotransporters. The protein forms antenna-like structures on the bacterial surface required for collagen adhesion. The 202-kDa protein monomers are proposed to be targeted and translocated across the inner membrane by a long signal peptide composed of 56 amino acids. The predicted signal peptide was functionally active in Escherichia coli and A. actinomycetemcomitans using truncated PhoA and Aae chimeric proteins, respectively. Mutations in the signal peptide were generated and characterized for PhoA activity in E. coli. A. actinomycetemcomitans strains expressing EmaA with the identical mutant signal peptides were assessed for cellular localization, surface expression, and collagen binding activity. All of the mutants impaired some aspect of EmaA structure or function. A signal peptide mutant that promoted alkaline phosphatase secretion did not allow any cell surface presentation of EmaA. A second mutant allowed for cell surface exposure but abolished protein function. A third mutant allowed for the normal localization and function of EmaA at 37°C but impaired localization at elevated temperatures. Likewise, replacement of the long EmaA signal peptide with a typical signal peptide also impaired localization above 37°C. The data suggest that the residues of the EmaA signal peptide are required for protein folding or assembly of this collagen adhesin.

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