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Mol Microbiol. 1997 Oct;26(2):337-46.

Proline 21, a residue within the alpha-helical domain of phiX174 lysis protein E, is required for its function in Escherichia coli.

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Institute of Microbiology and Genetics, University of Vienna, Austria.


PhiX174 lysis protein E-mediated lysis of Escherichia coli is characterized by a protein E-specific fusion of the inner and outer membrane and formation of a transmembrane tunnel structure. In order to understand the fusion process, the topology of protein E within the envelope complex of E. coli was investigated. Proteinase K protection studies showed that, during the time course of protein E-mediated lysis process, more of the fusion protein E-FXa-streptavidin gradually became accessible to the protease at the cell surface. These observations postulate a conformational change in protein E during induction of the lysis process by movement of the C-terminal end of the protein throughout the envelope complex from the inner side to the outer side spanning the entire pore and fusing the inner and outer membranes at distinct areas. The initiation mechanism for such a conformational change could be the cis-trans isomerization of proline residues within alpha-helical membrane-spanning segments. Conversion of proline 21, presumed to be in the membrane-embedded alpha-helix of protein E, to alanine, glycine, serine and valine, respectively, resulted in lysis-negative E mutant proteins. Proteinase K accessibility studies using streptavidin as a reporter fused to the P21G mutant protein showed that the C-terminal part of the fusion protein is not translocated to the outer side of the membrane, suggesting that this proline residue is essential for the correct folding of protein E within the cell wall complex of E. coli. Oligomerization of protein P21G-StrpA was not disturbed.

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