, Volume 191, Issue 12, pp 919-925
Date: 07 Oct 2009

Proteolytic processing of Escherichia coli twin-arginine signal peptides by LepB

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The twin-arginine translocation (Tat) apparatus is a protein targeting system found in the cytoplasmic membranes of many prokaryotes. Substrate proteins of the Tat pathway are synthesised with signal peptides bearing SRRxFLK ‘twin-arginine’ amino acid motifs. All Tat signal peptides have a common tripartite structure comprising a polar N-terminal region, followed by a hydrophobic region of variable length and a polar C-terminal region. In Escherichia coli, Tat signal peptides are proteolytically cleaved after translocation. The signal peptide C-terminal regions contain conserved AxA motifs, which are possible recognition sequences for leader peptidase I (LepB). In this work, the role of LepB in Tat signal peptide processing was addressed directly. Deliberate repression of lepB expression prevented processing of all Tat substrates tested, including SufI, AmiC, and a TorA-23K reporter protein. In addition, electron microscopy revealed gross defects in cell architecture and membrane integrity following depletion of cellular LepB protein levels.