The function of a leader peptide in translocating charged amino acyl residues across a membrane

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Science  07 Dec 1990:
Vol. 250, Issue 4986, pp. 1418-1421
DOI: 10.1126/science.2124001


Insertion of bacteriophage coat proteins into the membrane of infected bacterial cells can be studied as a model system of protein translocation across membranes. The coat protein of the filamentous bacteriophage Pf3--which infects Pseudomonas aeruginosa--is 44 amino acids in length and has the same basic structure as the coat protein of bacteriophage M13, which infects Escherichia coli. However, unlike the Pf3 coat protein, the M13 coat protein is synthesized as a precursor (procoat) with a typical leader (signal) sequence, which is cleaved after membrane insertion. Nevertheless, when the gene encoding the Pf3 coat protein is expressed in E. coli, the protein is translocated across the membrane. Hybrid M13 and Pf3 coat proteins were constructed in an attempt to understand how the Pf3 coat protein is translocated without a leader sequence. These studies demonstrated that the extracellular regions of the proteins determined their cellular location. When three charged residues in this region were neutralized, the leader-free M13 coat protein was also inserted into the membrane. Differences in the water shell surrounding these residues may account for efficient membrane insertion of the protein without a leader sequence.

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