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Nature. 1989 Oct 5;341(6241):462-4.

The alpha-lytic protease pro-region does not require a physical linkage to activate the protease domain in vivo.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, San Francisco 94143.


alpha-Lytic protease, an extracellular serine protease of Lysobacter enzymogenes 495, is synthesized as a pre-pro-protein. Previously it has been shown that when expressed in Escherichia coli, the protein is autocatalytically processed in the periplasmic space, and that the functional protease domain accumulates extracellularly. Engineered proteins lacking the 166 amino-acid pro-region were enzymatically inactive and remained cell-associated. By independently expressing the pro- and protease domains in vivo, evidence is provided here that direct covalent linkage is not required for production of active protease. We postulate that the pro-region acts as a template to promote the folding of the protease domain into an active configuration. Our results, combined with recent experiments on the evolutionarily unrelated subtilisin E (ref. 3), suggest that the ability of the pro-region of these bacterial proteases to facilitate folding of their protease domains is not a curiosity of a single system, but may reflect a general property of extracellular bacterial serine proteases.

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