The CpxA/R two-component signal transduction system of Escherichia coli can combat a variety of extracytoplasmic protein-mediated toxicities. The Cpx system performs this function, in part, by increasing the synthesis of the periplasmic protease, DegP. However, other factors are also employed by the Cpx system for this stress-combative function. In an effort to identify these remaining factors, we screened a collection of random lacZ operon fusions for those fusions whose transcription is regulated by CpxA/R. Through this approach, we have identified a new locus, cpxP, whose transcription is stimulated by activation of the Cpx pathway. cpxP specifies a periplasmic protein that can combat the lethal phenotype associated with the synthesis of a toxic envelope protein. In addition, we show that cpxP transcription is strongly induced by alkaline pH in a CpxA-dependent manner and that cpxP and cpx mutant strains display hypersensitivity to growth in alkaline conditions.
RpoS, an alternative primary sigma factor, has been shown to be regulated at multiple levels, including transcription, translation and protein stability. Here, we present evidence that suggests that RpoS is regulated at yet another level by the product of the crl gene. The crl gene was first thought to encode the major curlin subunit of curli (curli are surface structures that are induced by growth into stationary phase under conditions of low osmolarity and low temperature). Later, it was determined that crl actually contributes in a positive fashion to stimulate transcription of csgBA, the true locus encoding for the major subunit of curli. RpoS is also required for normal stationary-phase induction of csgBA. We found that lesions in crl, like lesions in rpoS, cause increased transcription of ompF during stationary phase. Taken together, these observations prompted us to analyse the effects of crl on an additional RpoS-regulated phenomenon. We found that a crl null allele influences expression of RpoS-regulated genes in a fashion similar to an rpoS null allele. Genetic evidence suggests that crl and rpoS function in a single pathway and that Crl functions upstream, or in concert with, RpoS. Although the effects of Crl on RpoS-regulated genes is entirely dependent on the integrity of RpoS, the presence of a crl null allele does not decrease the level of RpoS protein. Thus, we propose that Crl stimulates the activity of the RpoS regulon by stimulating RpoS activity during stationary phase.
We have utilized processing-defective derivatives of the outer membrane maltoporin, LamB, to study protein trafficking functions in the cell envelope of Escherichia coli. Our model proteins contain amino acid substitutions in the consensus site for cleavage by signal peptidase. As a result, the signal sequence is cleaved with reduced efficiency, effectively tethering the precursor protein to the inner membrane. These mutant porins are toxic when secreted to the cell envelope. Furthermore, strains producing these proteins exhibit altered outer membrane permeability, suggesting that the toxicity stems from some perturbation of the cell envelope (J. H. Carlson and T. J. Silhavy, J. Bacteriol. 175:3327-3334, 1993). We have characterized a multicopy suppressor of the processing-defective porins that appears to act by a novel mechanism. Using fractionation experiments and conformation-specific antibodies, we found that the presence of this multicopy suppressor allowed the processing-defective LamB precursors to be folded and localized to the outer membrane. Analysis of the suppressor plasmid revealed that these effects are mediated by the presence of a truncated derivative of the polytopic inner membrane protein, TetA. The suppression mediated by TetA' is independent of the CpxA/CpxR regulon and the sigma E regulon, both of which are involved in regulating protein trafficking functions in the cell envelope.
EnvZ, a membrane receptor kinase-phosphatase, modulates porin expression in Escherichia coli in response to medium osmolarity. It shares its basic scheme of signal transduction with many other sensor-kinases, passing information from the amino-terminal, periplasmic, sensory domain via the transmembrane helices to the carboxy-terminal, cytoplasmic, catalytic domain. The native receptor can exist in two active but opposed signaling states, the OmpR kinase-dominant state (K+ P-) and the OmpR-P phosphatase-dominant state (K- P+). The balance between the two states determines the level of intracellular OmpR-P, which in turn determines the level of porin gene transcription. To study the structural requirements for these two states of EnvZ, mutational analysis was performed. Mutations that preferentially affect either the kinase or phosphatase have been identified and characterized both in vivo and in vitro. Most of these mapped to previously identified structural motifs, suggesting an important function for each of these conserved regions. In addition, we identified a novel motif that is weakly conserved among two-component sensors. Mutations that alter this motif, which is termed the X region, alter the confirmation of EnvZ and significantly reduce the phosphatase activity.
EnvZ and OmpR are the sensor and response regulator proteins of a two-component system that controls the porin regulon of Escherichia coli in response to osmolarity. Three enzymatic activities are associated with EnvZ: autokinase, OmpR kinase, and OmpR-phosphate (OmpR-P) phosphatase. Conserved histidine-243 is critical for both autokinase and OmpR kinase activities. To investigate its involvement in OmpR-P phosphatase activity, histidine-243 was mutated to several other amino acids and the phosphatase activity of mutated EnvZ was measured both in vivo and in vitro. In agreement with previous reports, we found that certain substitutions abolished the phosphatase activity of EnvZ. However, a significant level of phosphatase activity remained when histidine-243 was replaced with certain amino acids, such as tyrosine. In addition, the phosphatase activity of a previously identified kinase- phosphatase+ mutant was not abolished by the replacement of histidine-243 with asparagine. These data indicated that although conserved histidine-243 is important for the phosphatase activity, a histidine-243-P intermediate is not required. Our data are consistent with a previous model that proposes a common transition state with histidine-243 (EnvZ) in close contact with aspartate-55 (OmpR) for both OmpR phosphorylation and dephosphorylation. Phosphotransfer occurs from histidine-243-P to aspartate-55 during phosphorylation, but water replaces the phosphorylated histidine side chain leading to hydrolysis during dephosphorylation.
In Escherichia coli, the heat shock-inducible sigma-factor sigma(E) and the Cpx two-component signal transduction system are both attuned to extracytoplasmic stimuli. For example, sigma(E) activity rises in response to the overproduction of various outer-membrane proteins. Similarly, the activity of the Cpx signal transduction pathway, which consists of an inner-membrane sensor (CpxA) and a cognate response regulator (CpxR), is stimulated by overproduction of the outer-membrane lipoprotein, NlpE. In response to these extracytoplasmic stimuli, sigma(E) and CpxA/CpxR stimulate the transcription of degP, which encodes a periplasmic protease. This suggests that CpxA/CpxR and sigma(E) both mediate protein turnover within the bacterial envelope. Here, we show that CpxA/CpxR and sigma(E) also control the synthesis of periplasmic enzymes that can facilitate protein-folding reactions. Specifically, sigma(E) controls transcription of fkpA, which specifies a periplasmic peptidyl-prolyl cis/trans isomerase. Similarly, the Cpx system controls transcription of the dsbA locus, which encodes a periplasmic enzyme required for efficient disulfide bond formation in several extracytoplasmic proteins. Taken together, these results indicate that sigma(E) and CpxA/CpxR are involved in regulating both protein-turnover and protein-folding activities within the bacterial envelope.
Disruption of normal protein trafficking in the Escherichia coli cell envelope (inner membrane, periplasm, outer membrane) can activate two parallel, but distinct, signal transduction pathways. This activation stimulates the expression of a number of genes whose products function to fold or degrade the mislocalized proteins. One of these signal transduction pathways is a two-component regulatory system comprised of the histidine kinase CpxA and the response regulator, CpxR. In this study we characterized gain-of-function Cpx* mutants in order to learn more about Cpx signal transduction. Sequencing demonstrated that the cpx* mutations cluster in either the periplasmic, the transmembrane, or the H-box domain of CpxA. Intriguingly, most of the periplasmic cpx* gain-of-function mutations cluster in the central region of this domain, and one encodes a deletion of 32 amino acids. Strains harboring these mutations are rendered insensitive to a normally activating signal. In vivo and in vitro characterization of maltose-binding-protein fusions between the wild-type CpxA and a representative cpx* mutant, CpxA101, showed that the mutant CpxA is altered in phosphotransfer reactions with CpxR. Specifically, while both CpxA and CpxA101 function as autokinases and CpxR kinases, CpxA101 is devoid of a CpxR-P phosphatase activity normally present in the wild-type protein. Taken together, the data support a model for Cpx-mediated signal transduction in which the kinase/phosphatase ratio is elevated by stress. Further, the sequence and phenotypes of periplasmic cpx* mutations suggest that interactions with a periplasmic signaling molecule may normally dictate a decreased kinase/phosphatase ratio under nonstress conditions.
In Escherichia coli, levels of the two major outer membrane porin proteins, OmpF and OmpC, are regulated in response to a variety of environmental parameters, and numerous factors have been shown to influence porin synthesis. EnvZ and OmpR control porin-gene transcription in response to osmolarity, and the antisense RNA, MicF, influences ompF translation. In contrast to these characterized factors, some of the components reported to influence porin expression have only modest effects and/or act indirectly. For others, potential regulatory roles, although intriguing, remain elusive. Here we review many of the components that have been reported to influence porin expression, address the potential regulatory nature of these components, and discuss how they may contribute to a regulatory network controlling porin synthesis.
In Escherichia coli, the sigma factor, RpoS, is a central regulator in stationary-phase cells. We have identified a gene, sprE (stationary-phase regulator), as essential for the negative regulation of rpoS expression. SprE negatively regulates the rpoS gene product at the level of protein stability, perhaps in response to nutrient availability. The ability of SprE to destabilize RpoS is dependent on the ClpX/ClpP protease. Based on homology, SprE is a member of the response regulator family of proteins. SprE is the first response regulator identified that is implicated in the control of protein stability. Moreover, SprE is the first reported protein that appears to regulate rpoS in response to a specific environmental parameter.
The secretion of proteins from the cytoplasm of Escherichia coli requires the interaction of two integral inner membrane components, SecY and SecE. We have devised a genetic approach to probe the molecular nature of the SecY-SecE interaction. Suppressor alleles of secY and secE, termed prlA and prlG, respectively, were analyzed in pair-wise combinations for synthetic phenotypes. From a total of 115 combinations, we found only seven pairs of alleles that exhibit a synthetic defect when present in combination with one another. The phenotypes observed are not the result of additive defects caused by the prl alleles, nor are they the consequence of multiple suppressors functioning within the same strain. In all cases, the synthetic defect is recessive to wild-type secY or secE provided in trans. The recessive nature argues for a defective interaction between the Prl suppressors. The extreme allele specificity and topological coincidence of the mutations represented by these seven pairs of alleles identify domains of interaction between SecY/PrlA and SecE/PrlG.
The wild-type LamB-LacZ hybrid protein inhibits the export machinery upon induction when assayed by biochemical and genetic techniques, a phenotype referred to as hybrid protein jamming. This hybrid protein also renders cells sensitive to growth in the presence of the inducer maltose, presumably because of the jamming. We constructed a new version of this fusion by adding alkaline phosphatase, encoded by phoA, to the C terminus of the LamB-LacZ hybrid protein. This tripartite protein, LamB-LacZ-PhoA, is as toxic to cells as the hybrid LamB-LacZ; however, it does not jam at temperatures greater than 33 degrees C. Extreme C-terminal sequences of LacZ function as a critical folding domain and are therefore responsible for stabilizing the LacZ structure. To determine if this region of LacZ is important for jamming, we recombined a late nonsense mutation (X90) onto the hybrid construct. We found the toxicity of this new hybrid, LamB-LacZX90, to be nearly identical to that of the full-length protein, but it also does not jam the secretion machinery. This suggests that jamming is caused by LacZ folding. We found no inhibition of secretion in the tripartite and X90 fusion strains at 37 degrees C, suggesting that the toxicity of the new fusions is novel. Under these conditions, the tripartite and X90 fusion proteins form disulfide-bonded aggregates with high molecular weights in the periplasm. Accordingly, we believe that LacZ disrupts some essential function(s) in the periplasm.
DegP is a heat-shock inducible periplasmic protease in Escherichia coli. Unlike the cytoplasmic heat shock proteins, DegP is not transcriptionally regulated by the classical heat shock regulon coordinated by sigma 32. Rather, the degP gene is transcriptionally regulated by an alternate heat shock sigma factor, sigma E. Previous studies have demonstrated a signal transduction pathway that monitors the amount of outer-membrane proteins in the bacterial envelope and modulates degP levels in response to this extracytoplasmic parameter. To analyze the transcriptional regulation of degP, we examined mutations that altered transcription of a degP-lacZ operon fusion. Gain-of-function mutations in cpxA, which specifies a two-component sensor protein, stimulate transcription from degP. Defined null mutations in cpxA or the gene encoding its cognate response regulator, cpxR, decrease transcription from degP. These null mutations also prevent transcriptional induction of degP in response to overexpression of a gene specifying an envelope lipoprotein. Cpx-mediated transcription of degP is partially dependent on the activity of E sigma E, suggesting that the Cpx pathway functions in concert with E sigma E and perhaps other RNA polymerases to drive transcription of degP.
The SecA protein of Escherichia coli is required for protein translocation from the cytoplasm. The complexity of SecA function is reflected by missense mutations in the secA gene that confer several different phenotypes: (i) conditional-lethal alleles cause a generalized block in protein secretion, resulting in the cytoplasmic accumulation of the precursor forms of secreted proteins; (ii) azi alleles confer resistance to azide at concentrations up to 4 mM; and (iii) prlD alleles suppress a number of signal sequence mutations in several different genes. To gain further insights into the role of SecA in protein secretion, we have isolated and characterized a large number of prlD mutations, reasoning that these mutations alter a normal function of wild-type SecA. Our results reveal a striking coincidence of signal sequence suppression and azide resistance: the majority of prlD alleles also confer azide resistance, and all azi alleles tested are suppressors. We suggest that this correlation reflects the mechanism(s) of signal sequence suppression. There are two particularly interesting subclasses of prlD and azi alleles. First, four of the prlD and azi alleles exhibit special properties: (i) as suppressors they are potent enough to allow PrlD (SecA) inactivation by a toxic LacZ fusion protein marked with a signal sequence mutation (suppressor-directed inactivation), (ii) they confer azide resistance, and (iii) they cause modest defects in the secretion of wild-type proteins. Sequence analysis reveals that all four of these alleles alter Tyr-134 in SecA, changing it to Ser, Cys, or Asn. The second subclass consists of seven prlD alleles that confer azide supersensitivity, and sequence analysis reveals that six of these alleles are changes of Ala-507 to Val. Both of the affected amino acids are located within different putative ATP-binding regions of SecA and thus may affect ATPase activities of SecA. We suggest that the four azide-resistant mutations slow an ATPase activity of SecA, thus allowing successful translocation of increased amounts of mutant precursor proteins.
OmpR, the transcriptional regulator of the ompF and ompC porin genes, is a member of a novel class of DNA-binding proteins. The mechanism(s) by which this class of proteins interacts with target DNA sites is not understood. To address this issue, we investigated the nature of the DNA sequences recognized by OmpR. A 36 bp DNA fragment was identified that is capable of supporting OmpR-DNA interaction in vivo. The base pairs within this region of DNA that are critical to this interaction were identified by isolating mutations within the fragment that hinder normal OmpR-DNA binding. The results obtained provide insights concerning the nature of the sequences recognized by OmpR and also support a model in which co-operative binding is involved in OmpR-DNA interaction.
Mutations in the secretory (sec) genes in Escherichia coli compromise protein translocation across the inner membrane and often confer conditional-lethal phenotypes. We have found that overproduction of the chaperonins GroES and GroEL from a multicopy plasmid suppresses a wide array of cold-sensitive sec mutations in E. coli. Suppression is accompanied by a stimulation of precursor protein translocation. This multicopy suppression does not bypass the Sec pathway because a deletion of secE is not suppressed under these conditions. Surprisingly, progressive deletion of the groE operon does not completely abolish the ability to suppress, indicating that the multicopy suppression of cold-sensitive sec mutations is not dependent on a functional groE operon. Indeed, overproduction of proteins unrelated to the process of protein export suppresses the secE501 cold-sensitive mutation, suggesting that protein overproduction, in and of itself, can confer mutations which compromise protein synthesis and the observation that low levels of protein synthesis inhibitors can suppress as well. In all cases, the mechanism of suppression is unrelated to the process of protein export. We suggest that the multicopy plasmids also suppress the sec mutations by compromising protein synthesis.
The processing-defective outer membrane porin protein LamBA23D (Carlson and Silhavy, 1993) and a tripartite fusion protein, LamB-LacZ-PhoA (Snyder and Silhavy, 1995), are both secreted across the cytoplasmic membrane of Escherichia coli, where they exert an extracytoplasmic toxicity. Suppressors of these toxicities map to a previously characterized gene, cpxA, that encodes the sensor kinase protein of a two-component regulatory system. These activated cpxA alleles, designated as cpxA*, stimulate transcription of the periplasmic protease DegP (Danese et al., 1995), which in turn catalyses degradation of the tripartite fusion protein. In contrast, degradation of precursor LamBA23D is not significantly stimulated in a cpxA* suppressor background. In fact, increased levels of DegP in a wild-type background stabilized this protein. While a functional degP gene is required for full cpxA*-mediated suppression of both toxic envelope proteins, residual suppression is seen in cpxA* degP::Tn10 double mutants. Furthermore, cpxA* mutations suppress the toxicity conferred by the LamB-LacZ hybrid protein, which exerts its effects in the cytoplasm, sequestered from DegP. Together, these observations suggest that the activated Cpx pathway regulates additional downstream targets that contribute to suppression. A subset of these targets may constitute a regulon involved in relieving extracytoplasmic and/or secretion-related stress.
The LamB-LacZ-PhoA tripartite fusion protein is secreted to the periplasm, where it exerts a toxicity of unknown origin during high-level synthesis in the presence of the inducer maltose, a phenotype referred to as maltose sensitivity. We selected multicopy suppressors of this toxicity that allow growth of the tripartite fusion strains in the presence of maltose. Mapping and subclone analysis of the suppressor locus identified a previously uncharacterized chromosomal region at 4.7 min that is responsible for suppression. DNA sequence analysis revealed a new gene with the potential to code for a protein of 236 amino acids with a predicted molecular mass of 25,829 Da. The gene product contains an amino-terminal signal sequence to direct the protein for secretion and a consensus lipoprotein modification sequence. As predicted from the sequence, the suppressor protein is labeled with [3H]palmitate and is localized to the outer membrane. Accordingly, the gene has been named nlpE (for new lipoprotein E). Increased expression of NlpE suppresses the maltose sensitivity of tripartite fusion strains and also the extracytoplasmic toxicities conferred by a mutant outer membrane protein, LamBA23D. Suppression occurs by activation of the Cpx two-component signal transduction pathway. This pathway controls the expression of the periplasmic protease DegP and other factors that can combat certain types of extracytoplasmic stress.
Osmoregulated porin gene expression in Escherichia coli is controlled by the two-component regulatory system EnvZ and OmpR. EnvZ, the osmosensor, is an inner membrane protein and a histidine kinase. EnvZ phosphorylates OmpR, a cytoplasmic DNA-binding protein, on an aspartyl residue. Phospho-OmpR binds to the promoters of the porin genes to regulate the expression of ompF and ompC. We describe the use of limited proteolysis by trypsin and ion spray mass spectrometry to characterize phospho-OmpR and the conformational changes that occur upon phosphorylation. Our results are consistent with a two-domain structure for OmpR, an N-terminal phosphorylation domain joined to a C-terminal DNA-binding domain by a flexible linker region. In the presence of acetyl phosphate, OmpR is phosphorylated at only one site. Phosphorylation induces a conformational change that is transmitted to the C-terminal domain via the central linker. Previous genetic analysis identified a region in the C-terminal domain that is required for transcriptional activation. Our results indicate that this region is within a surface-exposed loop. We propose that this loop contacts the alpha subunit of RNA polymerase to activate transcription. Mass spectrometry also reveals an unusual dephosphorylated form of OmpR, the potential significance of which is discussed.
In Escherichia coli, OmpR and EnvZ comprise a two component regulatory system that controls the relative expression of the outer membrane porin proteins, OmpF and OmpC. In this system, OmpR functions as a transcriptional regulator, serving as an activator of ompC, and as both an activator and a repressor of ompF. Previous evidence suggests that OmpR-mediated transcriptional activation involves direct interaction between OmpR and the C-terminal domain of the alpha subunit of RNA polymerase. However, it has remained unclear what region(s) of OmpR is directly involved in this proposed interaction. Moreover, little else is known about how OmpR activates transcription. To identify residues important for transcriptional activation, we screened for mutations in ompR that render the protein specifically defective in its ability to activate transcription. The isolated ompR alleles were characterized through haploid and diploid analyses at both the ompF and ompC promoters, and through an in vivo DNA binding assay. Through this approach, we have identified five amino acid residues in OmpR that are specifically required for transcriptional activation; R42, P179, E193, A196 and E198. We propose that these mutations define a region(s) in OmpR that may contact the C-terminal domain of alpha to mediate transcriptional activation.
Selection for suppressors of defects in the signal sequence of secretory proteins has led most commonly to identification of prlA alleles and less often to identification of prlG alleles. These genes, secY/prlA and secE/prlG, encode integral membrane components of the protein translocation system of Escherichia coli. We demonstrate that an outer membrane protein, LamB, that lacks a signal sequence can be exported with reasonable efficiency in both prlA and prlG suppressor strains. Although the signal sequence is not absolutely required for export of LamB, the level of export in the absence of prl suppressor alleles is exceedingly low. Such strains are phenotypically LamB-, and functional LamB can be detected only by using sensitive infectious-center assays. Suppression of the LamB signal sequence deletion is dependent on normal components of the export pathway, indicating that suppression is not occurring through a bypass mechanism. Our results indicate that the majority of the known prlA suppressors function by an identical mechanism and, further, that the prlG suppressors work in a similar fashion. We propose that both PrlA and PrlG suppressors lack a proofreading activity that normally rejects defective precursors from the export pathway.
The SecY protein of Escherichia coli and its homologues in other organisms, are integral components of the cellular protein translocation machinery. Suppressor mutations that alter SecY (the prlA alleles) broaden the specificity of this machinery and allow secretion of precursor proteins with defective signal sequences. Twenty-five prlA alleles have been characterized. These suppressor mutations were found to cluster in regions corresponding to three distinct topological domains of SecY. Based on the nature and position of the prlA mutations, we propose that transmembrane domain 7 of SecY functions in signal sequence recognition. Results suggest that this interaction may involve a right-handed supercoil of alpha-helices. Suppressor mutations that alter this domain appear to prevent signal sequence recognition, and this novel mechanism of suppression suggests a proofreading function for SecY. We propose that suppressor mutations that alter a second domain of SecY, transmembrane helix 10, also affect this proof-reading function, but indirectly. Based on the synthetic phenotypes exhibited by double mutants, we propose that these mutations strengthen the interaction with another component of the translocation machinery, SecE. Suppressor mutations were also found to cluster in a region corresponding to an amino-terminal periplasmic domain. Possible explanations for this unexpected finding are discussed.
Proteins destined for either the periplasm or the outer membrane of Escherichia coli are translocated from the cytoplasm by a common mechanism. It is generally assumed that outer membrane proteins, such as LamB (maltoporin or lambda receptor), which are rich in beta-structure, contain additional targeting information that directs proper membrane insertion. During transit to the outer membrane, these proteins may pass, in soluble form, through the periplasm or remain membrane associated and reach their final destination via sites of inner membrane-outer membrane contact (zones of adhesion). We report lamB mutations that slow signal sequence cleavage, delay release of the protein from the inner membrane, and interfere with maltoporin biogenesis. This result is most easily explained by proposing a soluble, periplasmic LamB assembly intermediate. Additionally, we found that such lamB mutations confer several novel phenotypes consistent with an abortive attempt by the cell to target these tethered LamB molecules. These phenotypes may allow isolation of mutants in which the process of outer membrane protein targeting is altered.
We have used fusions of the outer membrane protein LamB to beta-galactosidase (encoded by lacZ) to study the protein export process. This LamB-LacZ hybrid protein blocks export when synthesized at high levels, as evidenced by inducer (maltose) sensitivity, a phenomenon termed LacZ hybrid jamming. The prlF1 mutation relieves LacZ hybrid jamming and allows localization of the fusion protein to a noncytoplasmic compartment. prlF1 and similar alleles are gain-of-function mutations. Null mutations in this gene confer no obvious phenotypes. Extragenic suppressors of a gain-of-function prlF allele have been isolated in order to understand how this gene product affects the export process. The suppressors are all lon null mutations, and they are epistatic to all prlF phenotypes tested. Lon protease activity has been measured in prlF1 cells and shown to be increased. However, the synthesis of Lon is not increased in a prlF1 background, suggesting a previously unidentified mechanism of Lon activation. Further analysis reveals that prlF1 activates degradation of cytoplasmically localized precursors in a Lon protease-dependent manner. It is proposed that accumulation of precursors during conditions of hybrid protein jamming titrates an essential export component(s), possibly a chaperone. Increased Lon-dependent precursor degradation would free this component, thus allowing increased protein export under jamming conditions.
The sec/prl gene products catalyze the translocation of precursor proteins from the cytoplasm of Escherichia coli. Recessive, conditionally lethal mutant alleles of these genes (sec mutations) cause a generalized defect in protein secretion; dominant suppressor mutant alleles (prl mutations) restore export of precursor proteins with altered signal sequences. In prl strains, a precursor protein with a defective signal sequence can be selectively targeted to the suppressor gene product. When a precursor LacZ hybrid protein is used, the targeted prl protein is inactivated by the large, toxic hybrid molecule, a result termed suppressor-directed inactivation (SDI). Using SDI, two different secretion-related complexes can be generated: a pretranslocation complex that contains a hybrid protein with an unprocessed signal sequence, and a translocation complex in which the hybrid protein is jammed in transmembrane orientation with the signal sequence cleaved. Additional Sec proteins that are contained within, and thus sequestered by, each of these complexes can be identified when their functional levels are lowered using the conditional lethal sec mutations. Results of this genetic analysis suggest a multistep pathway for protein secretion in which the translocation machinery assembles on demand.
OmpR and EnvZ differentially control the transcription of the major outer membrane porin genes, ompF and ompC, in Escherichia coli in response to the osmolarity of the medium. We have previously provided evidence that OmpR works both positively and negatively at the ompF promoter to give the characteristic switch from OmpF to OmpC production with increasing osmolarity. Here, we describe the isolation of cis-acting ompF mutations that affect negative regulation by OmpR by affecting the three-dimensional structure of the promoter region as measured by agarose gel mobility. These results further clarify the mechanism by which OmpR negatively regulates ompF expression, suggesting a model in which OmpR forms a repressive loop in the ompF promoter region.
Osmoregulation of the bacterial porin genes ompF and ompC is controlled by a two-component regulatory system. EnvZ, the sensor component of this system, is capable both of phosphorylating and dephosphorylating OmpR, the effector component. Mutations were isolated in envZ that abolish the expression of both porin genes. These mutants appear to have lost the kinase activity of EnvZ while retaining their phosphatase activity, so that in their presence OmpR is completely unphosphorylated. The behavior of these mutants in haploid, and in diploid with other envZ alleles, is consistent with a model in which EnvZ mediates osmoregulation by controlling the concentration of a single species. OmpR-P.
Mutations of Escherichia coli K-12 were isolated that increase the frequency of deletion formation. Three of these mutations map to the gene sbcB at 43.5 min on the E. coli chromosome. Two types of mutations at sbcB have been previously defined: sbcB-type that suppress both the UV sensitivity and recombination deficiency of recBC mutants, and xonA-type that suppress only the UV sensitivity. Both types are defective for production of exonuclease I activity. The mutations isolated here were similar to xonA alleles of sbcB because they suppressed the UV sensitivity of recBC mutants but did not restore recombination proficiency. Indeed, two previously characterized xonA alleles were shown to increase the frequency of deletion formation, although an sbcB allele did not. This result demonstrates that loss of exonuclease I activity is not sufficient to confer a high deletion phenotype, rather, the product of the sbcB gene possesses some other function that is important for deletion formation. Because deletion formation in this system is recA independent and does not require extensive DNA homology, these mutations affect a pathway of illegitimate recombination.
Results presented in this study demonstrate that a mutation which inserts an additional tyrosine between the 2 tyrosines at residues 118 and 119 of mature LamB protein results in a temperature-dependent assembly defect. This defect leads to the accumulation of an intermediate at the restrictive temperature that is most likely an assembly-defective monomer. These monomers are rapidly degraded in the wild type (htrA+) strain, and the biphasic kinetics of this degradation indicate that the mutation affects the assembly process and not the final product, i.e. stable trimers. In addition, our data show that the temperature-dependent assembly defect in the mutant strain is reversible, and therefore the accumulated monomers represent a true assembly intermediate. Fractionation studies show that the monomers, which can be accumulated in htrA (degP) mutants at the restrictive temperature, are associated with the outer membrane, indicating that trimerization of LamB is not a prerequisite for localization.
We have isolated mutations in rpoA, the gene encoding the alpha subunit of RNA polymerase, that specifically affect transcriptional control by OmpR and EnvZ, the two-component regulatory system that controls porin gene expression in Escherichia coli. Characterization of these mutations and a previously isolated rpoA allele suggests that both positive and negative regulation of porin gene transcription involves a direct interaction between OmpR and RNA polymerase through the alpha subunit. Several of the rpoA mutations cluster in the carboxy-terminal portion of the alpha protein, further suggesting that it is this domain of alpha that is involved in interaction with OmpR and perhaps other transcriptional regulators as well.
A new paradigm, termed two-component regulatory systems, is emerging from the study of signal transduction in bacteria. A simple example of such a system is provided by the Omp regulon of Escherichia coli. This regulon, which controls the expression of the major outer membrane porin proteins OmpF and OmpC in response to changes in osmolarity, includes the inner membrane protein EnvZ (a receptor kinase) and the DNA-binding protein OmpR (a transcriptional activator). Although we do not know what "ligand" is sensed in the Omp system, we can trace the signal transduction pathway from the receptor at the cell surface directly to regulatory sequences within the DNA. Perhaps signal transduction in bacteria can serve as a simple archetype for understanding certain functions performed by receptor kinases and phosphorylated DNA-binding proteins in higher organisms.
Genetic studies have identified six genes whose products comprise the general protein secretion machinery of Escherichia coli. Insights from mutant analysis and the biochemical properties of the purified components allows the secretion pathway to be described in some detail. The picture emerging provides a useful paradigm for similar pathways in other organisms.
The use of lacZ gene fusions, producing a hybrid protein containing an amino terminus specified by a target gene fused to the functional carboxy terminus of beta-galactosidase, has facilitated the study of protein targeting in various organisms. One of the best characterized fusions in Escherichia coli is phi(lamB-lacZ)42-1(Hyb), which produces a hybrid protein with the signal sequence and 181 N-terminal amino acids of the exported protein LamB, attached to LacZ. In common with other LacZ hybrids, the LamB-LacZ(42-1) protein is poorly exported from E. coli, conferring a Lac+ phenotype. beta-Galactosidase activity decreases markedly when cells producing the LamB-LacZ protein are grown at 42 degrees C or when a heat-shock response is induced at lower temperatures by overproducing heat-shock factor RpoH3, indicating the LacZ hybrids are being efficiently targeted to the cell envelope. We now report that the heat-shock proteins DnaK and GroEL can, in sufficient amounts, decrease beta-galactosidase activity and facilitate the export of lacZ-hybrid proteins.
Three strategies for genetic analysis show that two inner membrane components of the export machinery, PrlA (SecY) and PrlG (SecE), interact directly while catalyzing the translocation of secreted proteins across the cytoplasmic membrane of E. coli. The first, suppressor-directed inactivation (SDI), exploits the specific interaction between dominant prl suppressors of signal sequence mutations and mutant LacZ hybrid proteins. The second, Sec titration, extends SDI to allow the identification of various Sec proteins that are present in the translocation complex. The third uses the synthetic lethality of certain double-mutant strains to infer physical interactions between gene products. Biochemical data obtained with SDI strains allow the identification of two different secretory intermediates and indicate that PrlG functions before PrlA in the secretion pathway.
Two general approaches have been used to define genetically the genes that encode components of the cellular protein export machinery. One of these strategies identifies mutations that confer a conditional-lethal, pleiotropic export defect (sec, secretion). The other identifies dominant suppressors of signal sequence mutations (prl, protein localization). Subsequent characterization reveals that in at least three cases, prlA/secY, prlD/secA, and prlG/secE, both types of mutations are found within the same structural gene. This convergence is satisfying and provides compelling evidence for direct involvement of these gene products in the export process.
Transcription of the genes that encode the major outer membrane porin proteins OmpF and OmpC of Escherichia coli is regulated in response to changes in medium osmolarity by EnvZ and OmpR. EnvZ functions to sense environmental conditions and to relay this information to the DNA-binding protein OmpR. We have used a truncated EnvZ protein (EnvZ115), which is defective in sensory function but able to communicate with OmpR, to study the biochemical interactions between these two proteins and their effects on transcription from the ompF promoter. We show that purified EnvZ115 can phosphorylate OmpR in the presence of ATP. In addition, EnvZ115 stimulates the ability of OmpR to activate ompF transcription in vitro. Using antibodies specific for EnvZ, we have purified the wild-type protein and have shown that it is also an OmpR kinase. These results provide a prokaryotic example of a transmembrane sensory protein that functions as a protein kinase and suggest a mechanism by which EnvZ communicates with OmpR in signal transduction.
The two-component regulatory system, OmpR and EnvZ, in Escherichia coli controls the differential expression of ompF and ompC in response to medium osmolarity. Previous studies suggest that EnvZ functions as a membrane sensor relaying information to the DNA-binding protein, OmpR, which in turn activates expression of the appropriate promoter. A strategy has been devised to isolate and characterize a collection of missense mutations in ompR that alter, but do not abolish protein function. Mutants were isolated using strains that contain the ompR and envZ genes in separate chromosomal locations yet maintain the production of both regulatory proteins at physiological levels. Such an arrangement facilitates ompR diploid analysis and tests of epistasis with known envZ mutations. The data obtained indicate that OmpR works in both a positive and negative fashion to control the transcription of ompF and this result forms the basis of a model for porin regulation that explains the switch from OmpF to OmpC production in response to increasing medium osmolarity.
Analysis of more than 100 extragenic suppressors of the lamB14D signal-sequence mutation (changes Val in the hydrophobic core region at position 14 to Asp) has revealed alterations that appear to lie at prlA (secY) and secA (prlD), two loci known to be mutable to suppressor alleles, and a new suppressor termed prlG. One allele of the new suppressor class, prlG1, has been characterized in some detail. This suppressor counteracts, to some degree, the export defect conferred by a variety of signal-sequence mutations in two different genes, lamB and malE. Genetic analysis shows that the dominant suppressor mutations are linked tightly to, and probably allelic with, the gene secE. This result, coupled with data obtained with conditional-lethal alleles of secE, argues strongly that SecE is an important component of the cellular protein export machinery in Escherichia coli.
Signal transduction in the bacterial Omp, Che, and Ntr systems involves the phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of response regulators (OmpR, CheY and CheB, NRI) that share a homologous domain. We show that in the Omp system, the transmembrane sensor EnvZ, catalyzes both the phosphorylation of OmpR and the dephosphorylation of OmpR-P. The phosphorylation reaction proceeds by a mechanism shared with the Ntr and Che kinases, NRII, and CheA. EnvZ can phosphorylate NRI and can stimulate transcription from the glnAp2 promoter, and similarly, CheA can phosphorylate OmpR and can stimulate transcription from the ompF promoter. OmpR-P formed by either CheA or EnvZ is much more stable than CheY-P and NRI-P, but is rapidly hydrolyzed to OmpR and Pi by EnvZ in the presence of ATP, ADP, or nonhydrolyzable analogs of ATP. Because EnvZ is normally a transmembrane receptor with a periplasmic sensory domain, our results suggest that the role of EnvZ may be to control the intracellular concentration of OmpR-P in response to environmental signals.
Strains of Escherichia coli in which lacZ (specifies beta-galactosidase) is fused to genes that specify exported proteins such as LamB (lambda receptor) exhibit unusual phenotypes. In particular, such strains are killed by high-level expression of the LacZ hybrid protein. Previous results suggest that this overproduction phenotype is the consequence of a lethal jamming of the cellular protein export machinery and this hypothesis is supported by the observed accumulation of the precursor forms of many noncytoplasmic proteins within the moribund cell. Under conditions in which protein export is compromised, biochemical and immunocytochemical analyses indicate that these hybrid proteins can be found in transmembrane orientation. To identify the cellular component rendered rate-limiting by the LacZ hybrid protein under jamming conditions we have utilized signal sequence mutations, which block entry of the hybrid protein into the export pathway, and a dominant suppressor of these lesions, prlA4. Data obtained with a series of merodiploids heterozygous and homozygous for prlA+ and prlA4 show that PrlA is the component sequestered by hybrid jamming. Taken together, these results suggest that PrlA is a component of the export machinery that functions in the translocation of proteins across the cytoplasmic membrane.
The prlC gene product of Escherichia coli can be altered by mutation so that it restores export of proteins with defective signal sequences. The strongest suppressor, prlC8, restores processing of a mutant signal sequence to a rate indistinguishable from the wild-type. Data obtained by changing gene dosage of the dominant suppressor and its specificity for different signal sequence mutations suggest that PrlC8 interacts directly with the hydrophobic core of the signal sequence. Despite the fact that signal sequence processing appears to be mediated by leader peptidase, the processed mature protein is not translocated efficiently from the cytoplasm. Results obtained with various double mutants indicate that PrlC8-mediated processing of mutant signal sequences does not require components of the cellular export machinery such as SecA, SecB or PrlA (SecY) and that the block in translocation from the cytoplasm occurs because PrlA (SecY) fails to recognize the defective signal sequence. We suggest that PrlC8 directs insertion of the mutant signal sequence into the membrane bilayer to an extent that processing by leader peptidase can occur. This reaction is novel in that it has not been observed previously in vivo.
The regulatory proteins OmpR and EnvZ are both required to activate expression of the genes for the major outer membrane porin proteins, OmpF and OmpC, of Escherichia coli K-12. Here we show that OmpR, under certain conditions, could activate porin expression in the complete absence of EnvZ. In addition, the pleiotropic phenotypes conferred by a particular envZ mutation (envZ473) required the presence of functional OmpR protein. These results lead us to conclude that EnvZ and OmpR act in sequential fashion to activate porin gene expression; i.e., EnvZ modifies or in some way directs OmpR, which in turn acts at the appropriate porin gene promoter.
By fusing the transcriptional and translational start signals of lacZ to envZ, we have obtained high-level synthesis of a truncated EnvZ protein (EnvZ115) in which the first 38 amino acids of EnvZ are replaced with the first 8 amino acids of LacZ. Using this construct, we have partially purified the EnvZ115 protein and demonstrated that this protein can be phosphorylated in vitro. We suggest that phosphorylation may be an important feature of EnvZ function.
During its localization to the outer membrane, LamB possesses distinctive biochemical properties as it passes through the cytoplasmic membrane. Because LamB entered this dynamic state with an attached signal sequence and leaves after cleavage, we call this export-related form of LamB the early-translocation form (et-LamB).
We exploited the conditional-lethal phenotype of secB null mutations to demonstrate that SecB function was required for PrlA-mediated suppression of signal sequence mutations. The results of these experiments provide information about the functions performed and the sequence determinants recognized by each of these components of the protein export machinery of Escherichia coli.
Our laboratory has been utilizing the Escherichia coli outer membrane protein LamB to study the mechanism of protein localization. Various lines of evidence suggest that, in addition to a signal sequence, regions within the mature protein are required for efficient localization. In particular, studies using LamB-LacZ hybrid proteins have identified regions between amino acids 27 and 49 of mature LamB, which may play an important role in localization. To elucidate further the function of these regions, a series of in-frame deletions that remove varying lengths of early lamB sequences was constructed. The effects of these deletions on export of a large LamB-LacZ hybrid protein, 42-1, and on export of an otherwise wild-type LamB protein were determined. We find a strong correlation between the sequences deleted and the export phenotypes these deletions impart to both LamB and the LamB-LacZ42-1 hybrid protein. On the basis of these findings, the deletions can be divided into several distinct classes that define a region within mature LamB that participates in localization. This region extends amino terminally from amino acid 28 of the mature protein and functions in the rapid and efficient localization of LamB from the cytoplasm.