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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 2;8(8):e69488. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069488. Print 2013.

Substrate-dependent assembly of the Tat translocase as observed in live Escherichia coli cells.

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Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Zentrum für Biochemie und Molekulare Zellforschung, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.


The twin-arginine translocation (Tat) pathway guides fully folded proteins across membranes of bacteria, archaea and plant chloroplasts. In Escherichia coli, Tat-specific transport is executed in a still largely unknown manner by three functionally diverse membrane proteins, termed TatA, TatB, and TatC. In order to follow the intracellular distribution of the TatABC proteins in live E. coli cells, we have individually expressed fluorophore-tagged versions of each Tat protein in addition to a set of chromosomally encoded TatABC proteins. In this way, a Tat translocase could form from the native TatABC proteins and be visualized via the association of a fluorescent Tat variant. A functionally active TatA-green fluorescent protein fusion was found to re-locate from a uniform distribution in the membrane into a few clusters preferentially located at the cell poles. Clustering was absolutely dependent on the co-expression of functional Tat substrates, the proton-motive force, and the cognate TatBC subunits. Likewise, polar cluster formation of a functional TatB-mCherry fusion required TatA and TatC and that of a functional TatC-mCherry fusion a functional Tat substrate. Furthermore we directly demonstrate the co-localization of TatA and TatB in the same fluorescent clusters. Our collective results are consistent with distinct Tat translocation sites dynamically forming in vivo in response to newly synthesized Tat substrates.

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