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Arch Microbiol. 1998 May;169(5):434-44.

Molecular genetic evidence for extracytoplasmic localization of sulfur globules in Chromatium vinosum.

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Institut für Mikrobiologie & Biotechnologie, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Meckenheimer Allee 168, D-53115 Bonn, Germany.


Purple sulfur bacteria store sulfur as intracellular globules enclosed by a protein envelope. We cloned the genes sgpA, sgpB, and sgpC, which encode the three different proteins that constitute the sulfur globule envelope of Chromatium vinosum D (DSMZ 180(T)). Southern hybridization analyses and nucleotide sequencing showed that these three genes are not clustered in the same operon. All three genes are preceded by sequences resembling sigma70-dependent promoters, and hairpin structures typical for rho-independent terminators are found immediately downstream of the translational stop codons of sgpA, sgpB, and sgpC. Insertional inactivation of sgpA in Chr. vinosum showed that the presence of only one of the homologous proteins SgpA and SgpB suffices for formation of intact sulfur globules. All three sgp genes encode translation products which - when compared to the isolated proteins - carry amino-terminal extensions. These extensions meet all requirements for typical signal peptides indicating an extracytoplasmic localization of the sulfur globule proteins. A fusion of the phoA gene to the sequence encoding the proposed signal peptide of sgpA led to high specific alkaline phosphatase activities in Escherichia coli, further supporting the envisaged targeting process. Together with electron microscopic evidence these results provide strong indication for an extracytoplasmic localization of the sulfur globules in Chr. vinosum and probably in other Chromatiaceae. Extracytoplasmic formation of stored sulfur could contribute to the transmembranous Deltap that drives ATP synthesis and reverse electron flow in Chr. vinosum.

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