Transmembrane β barrel proteins are folded into the outer membrane (OM) of Gram-negative bacteria by the β barrel assembly machinery (BAM) via a poorly understood process that occurs without known external energy sources. Here, we used single-particle cryo-EM to visualize the folding dynamics of a model β barrel protein (EspP) by BAM. We found that BAM binds the highly conserved “β signal” motif of EspP to correctly orient β strands in the OM during folding. We also found that the folding of EspP proceeds via “hybrid-barrel” intermediates in which membrane integrated β sheets are attached to the essential BAM subunit, BamA. The structures show an unprecedented deflection of the membrane surrounding the EspP intermediates and suggest that β sheets progressively fold toward BamA to form a β barrel. Along with in vivo experiments that tracked β barrel folding while the OM tension was modified, our results support a model in which BAM harnesses OM elasticity to accelerate β barrel folding.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- membrane dynamics
- membrane protein folding
- outer membrane protein
- β barrel