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J Biol Chem. 2013 Mar 15;288(11):7704-16. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.429431. Epub 2013 Jan 25.

Charge composition features of model single-span membrane proteins that determine selection of YidC and SecYEG translocase pathways in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


We have investigated the features of single-span model membrane proteins based upon leader peptidase that determines whether the proteins insert by a YidC/Sec-independent, YidC-only, or YidC/Sec mechanism. We find that a protein with a highly hydrophobic transmembrane segment that inserts into the membrane by a YidC/Sec-independent mechanism becomes YidC-dependent if negatively charged residues are inserted into the translocated periplasmic domain or if the hydrophobicity of the transmembrane segment is reduced by substituting polar residues for nonpolar ones. This suggests that charged residues in the translocated domain and the hydrophobicity within the transmembrane segment are important determinants of the insertion pathway. Strikingly, the addition of a positively charged residue to either the translocated region or the transmembrane region can switch the insertion requirements such that insertion requires both YidC and SecYEG. To test conclusions from the model protein studies, we confirmed that a positively charged residue is a SecYEG determinant for the endogenous proteins ATP synthase subunits a and b and the TatC subunit of the Tat translocase. These findings provide deeper insights into how pathways are selected for the insertion of proteins into the Escherichia coli inner membrane.

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