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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Sep 17;110(38):E3612-21. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1312012110. Epub 2013 Sep 3.

Protease homolog BepA (YfgC) promotes assembly and degradation of β-barrel membrane proteins in Escherichia coli.

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Institute for Virus Research, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8507, Japan.


Gram-negative bacteria are equipped with quality-control systems for the outer membrane (OM) that sense and cope with defective biogenesis of its components. Accumulation of misfolded outer membrane proteins (OMPs) in Escherichia coli leads to activation of σ(E), an essential alternative σ factor that up-regulates transcription of multiple genes required to preserve OM structure and function. Disruption of bepA (formerly yfgC), a σ(E)-regulated gene encoding a putative periplasmic metalloprotease, sensitizes cells to multiple drugs, suggesting that it may be involved in maintaining OM integrity. However, the specific function of BepA remains unclear. Here, we show that BepA enhances biogenesis of LptD, an essential OMP involved in OM transport and assembly of lipopolysaccharide, by promoting rearrangement of intramolecular disulfide bonds of LptD. In addition, BepA possesses protease activity and is responsible for the degradation of incorrectly folded LptD. In the absence of periplasmic chaperone SurA, BepA also promotes degradation of BamA, the central OMP subunit of the β-barrel assembly machinery (BAM) complex. Interestingly, defective oxidative folding of LptD caused by bepA disruption was partially suppressed by expression of protease-active site mutants of BepA, suggesting that BepA functions independently of its protease activity. We also show that BepA has genetic and physical interaction with components of the BAM complex. These findings raised the possibility that BepA maintains the integrity of OM both by promoting assembly of OMPs and by proteolytically eliminating OMPs when their correct assembly was compromised.


disulfide bond formation; extracytoplasmic function sigma factor; peptidase M48; protein quality control; tetratricopeptide repeat (TPR) motif

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