SecY is an Escherichia coli integral membrane protein required for efficient translocation of other proteins across the cytoplasmic membrane; it is embedded in this membrane by the 10 transmembrane segments. Among several SecY-alkaline phosphatase (PhoA) fusion proteins that we constructed previously, SecY-PhoA fusion 3-3, in which PhoA is fused to the third periplasmic region of SecY just after the fifth transmembrane segment, was found to be subject to rapid proteolytic processing in vivo. Both the SecY and PhoA products of this cleavage have been identified immunologically. In contrast, cleavage of SecY-PhoA 3-3 was barely observed in a lep mutant with a temperature-sensitive leader peptidase. The full-lenght protein accumulated in this mutant was cleaved in vitro by the purified leader peptidase. A sequence Ala-202-Ile-Ala located near the proposed interface between transmembrane segment 5 and periplasmic domain 3 of SecY was found to be responsible for the recognition and cleavage by the leader peptidase, since a mutated fusion protein with Phe-Ile-Phe at this position was no longer cleaved even in the wild-type cells. These results indicate that SecY contains a potential leader peptidase cleavage site that undergoes cleavage if the PhoA sequence is attached carboxy terminally. Thus, transmembrane segment 5 of SecY can fulfill both of the two important functions of the signal peptide, translocation and cleavage, although the latter function is cryptic in the normal SecY protein.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology