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Microb Drug Resist. 1996 Spring;2(1):9-15.

Overall protein content and induced enzyme components of the periplasm of Bacillus subtilis.

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Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Microbiennes, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Estimates for the overall protein content of the periplasm of Escherichia coli range from 4 to 16% of cellular protein. A cursory examination of known sources of contamination inherent to the methods employed for measurement leads to the conclusion that even the lower value may represent an overestimate of the periplasmic protein in E. coli. The protoplast supernatant fraction (PSF) of Bacillus subtilis defines operationally a potential periplasm, which, after correction for cytoplasmic contamination, yielded, in B. subtilis strains 168 and W23, calculated values of 9 and 3%, respectively, of cell protein as being periplasmic. 26 Among enzymes typically periplasmic in E. coli, at least two, RNases and a 5'-nucleotidase, were located in the B. subtilis periplasm. Compared to other cell fractions, RNase activity in the periplasm was associated with several protein bands forming a unique profile. Samples from all growth phases of cells cultured under phosphate-limitation and phosphate-excess revealed that a major part of both investigated activities was induced by phosphate depletion and located outside the plasma membrane. The current belief that a periplasm containing soluble enzymes does not exist in gram-positive bacteria is examined in light of the absence of an outer membrane permeability barrier, and of a clearly defined electron-transparent zone located between the plasma membrane and the cell wall of B. subtilis. Previous results of studies of protein secretion, and cell wall permeability, are reinterpreted by assuming that the thick charged cell wall of gram-positive bacteria can act as the outer permeability barrier, and as such be the functional equivalent of the outer membrane of gram-negative organisms.

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