, Volume 182, Issue 2, pp 147-157

Study of the Properties of a Channel-forming Protein of the Cell Wall of the Gram-positive Bacterium Mycobacterium phlei

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The gram-positive bacterium Mycobacterium phlei was treated with detergents. Reconstitution experiments using lipid bilayers suggested that the detergent extracts contain a channel forming protein. The protein was purified to homogeneity by preparative SDS-PAGE and identified as a protein with an apparent molecular mass of about 135 kDa. The channel-forming unit dissociated into subunits with a molecular mass of about 22 kDa when it was boiled in 80% dimethylsulfoxid (DMSO). The channel has on average a single channel conductance of 4.5 nS in 1 m KCl and is highly voltage-dependent in an asymmetric fashion when the protein is added to only one side of the membrane. Zero-current membrane potential measurements with different salts implied that the channel is highly cation-selective because of negative point charges in or near the channel mouth. Analysis of the single-channel conductance as a function of the hydrated cation radii using the Renkin correction factor and the effect of the negative point charges on the single-channel conductance suggest that the diameter of the cell wall channel is about 1.8 to 2.0 nm. The channel properties were compared with those of other members of the mycolata and suggest that these channels share common features. Southern blots demonstrated that the chromosome of M. phlei and other mycolata tested contain homologous sequences to mspA (gene of the cell wall porin of Mycobacterium smegmatis).

Received: 22 December 2000/Revised: 10 April 2001