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Mol Microbiol. 1993 Apr;8(2):409-23.

Activity domains of the TonB protein.

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Mikrobiologie II, Universität Tübingen, Germany.


Escherichia coli and related Gram-negative bacteria contain an energy-coupled transport system through the outer membrane which consists of the proteins TonB, ExbB, ExbD anchored in the cytoplasmic membrane and receptors in the outer membrane. Differences in the activities of the Escherichia coli and the Serratia marcescens TonB proteins were used to identify TonB functional domains. In E.coli TonB segments were replaced by equivalent fragments of S. marcescens TonB and the activities of the resulting chimaeric proteins were determined. In addition, E. coli TonB was truncated at the C-terminal end, and point mutants were generated using bisulphite. From the results obtained we draw the following conclusions: an important site of interaction between TonB and ExbB is located in the N-terminal region of TonB within or close to the cytoplasmic membrane since an N-terminal 44-residue fragment of TonB was stabilized by ExbB and interfered with wild-type TonB activity. In addition, the activity of a TonB derivative in which histidine residue 20 was replaced by arginine was strongly reduced, and a double mutant containing arginine-7 to histidine and alanine-22 to threonine substitutions displayed an impaired uptake of ferrichrome. Furthermore, the domain around residue 160 is involved in TonB activity. S. marcescens TonB segments of this region in E. coli TonB conferred S. marcescens TonB activities, and E. coli TonB point mutants displayed strongly impaired activities for the uptake of colicin B and M and ferric siderophores. Plasmid-encoded tonB mutants of this region showed negative complementation of chromosomal wild-type tonB, and certain tonB mutants suppressed colicin B TonB-box mutants. Uptake of colicins required different domains in TonB, for colicin B and M around residue 160 and for colicin Ia, a domain closer to the C-terminal end. Tandem duplication of the E. coli (EP)X(KP) region by insertion of the S. marcescens (EP)X(KP) region (38 residues) and replacement of lysine residue 91 by glutamate did not alter TonB activity so that no evidence was obtained for this region to be implicated in receptor binding. The aberrant electrophoretic mobility of TonB was caused by the proline-rich sequence since its removal resulted in a normal mobility.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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