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Nature. 1989 Oct 5;341(6241):456-8.

Control of topology and mode of assembly of a polytopic membrane protein by positively charged residues.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Karolinska Institute, Huddinge, Sweden.


Positively charged amino acids have been shown to be important elements in targeting-peptides that direct proteins into mitochondria, nuclei, and the secretory pathways of both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. The 'positive-inside' rule, which observes that regions of polytopic (multi-spanning) membrane proteins facing the cytoplasm are generally enriched in arginyl and lysyl residues whereas translocated regions are largely devoid of these residues, implies that the distribution of positively charged amino acids may also be a major determinant of the transmembrane topology of integral membrane proteins. If this is indeed the case, it should be possible to predictably alter the topology of a polytopic protein by site-directed insertions and/or deletions of positively charged residues in critical locations. I now describe a derivative of Escherichia coli leader peptidase, a polytopic inner-membrane protein, that switches from sec-gene-dependent membrane insertion with a Nout-Cout transmembrane topology to sec-gene-independent insertion with a Nin-Cin topology in response to the addition of four positively charged lysines to its N terminus.

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