Suppression of signal sequence defects and azide resistance in Escherichia coli commonly result from the same mutations in secA

J. L. Huie, T. J. Silhavy

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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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3518-3526
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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