In the bacterial periplasm the co-existence of a catalyst of disulfide bond formation (DsbA) that is maintained in an oxidized state and of a reduced enzyme that catalyzes the rearrangement of mispaired cysteine residues (DsbC) is important for the folding of proteins containing multiple disulfide bonds. The kinetic partitioning of the DsbA/DsbB and DsbC/DsbD pathways partly depends on the ability of DsbB to oxidize DsbA at rates >1000 times greater than DsbC. We show that the resistance of DsbC to oxidation by DsbB is abolished by deletions of one or more amino acids within the α-helix that connects the N-terminal dimerization domain with the C-terminal thioredoxin domain. As a result, mutant DsbC carrying α-helix deletions could catalyze disulfide bond formation and complemented the phenotypes of dsbA cells. Examination of DsbC homologues from Haemophilus influenzae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Erwinia chrysanthemi, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, Vibrio cholerae (30-70% sequence identity with the Escherichia coli enzyme) revealed that the mechanism responsible for avoiding oxidation by DsbB is a general property of DsbC family enzymes. In addition we found that deletions in the linker region reduced, but did not abolish, the ability of DsbC to assist the formation of active vtPA and phytase in vivo, in a DsbD-dependent manner, revealing that interactions between DsbD and DsbC are also conserved.
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