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J Bacteriol. 1997 Dec;179(24):7687-94.

Unliganded maltose-binding protein triggers lactose transport in an Escherichia coli mutant with an alteration in the maltose transport system.

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Department of Microbiology, College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Escherichia coli accumulates malto-oligosaccharides by the maltose transport system, which is a member of the ATP-binding-cassette (ABC) superfamily of transport systems. The proteins of this system are LamB in the outer membrane, maltose-binding protein (MBP) in the periplasm, and the proteins of the inner membrane complex (MalFGK2), composed of one MalF, one MalG, and two MalK subunits. Substrate specificity is determined primarily by the periplasmic component, MBP. However, several studies of the maltose transport system as well as other members of the ABC transporter superfamily have suggested that the integral inner membrane components MalF and MalG may play an important role in determining the specificity of the system. We show here that residue L334 in the fifth transmembrane helix of MalF plays an important role in determining the substrate specificity of the system. A leucine-to-tryptophan alteration at this position (L334W) results in the ability to transport lactose in a saturable manner. This mutant requires functional MalK-ATPase activity and the presence of MBP, even though MBP is incapable of binding lactose. The requirement for MBP confirms that unliganded MBP interacts with the inner membrane MalFGK2 complex and that MBP plays a crucial role in triggering the transport process.

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