Cytoplasmic membrane protonmotive force energizes periplasmic interactions between ExbD and TonB

Anne A. Ollis, Marta Manning, Kiara G. Held, Kathleen Postle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The TonB system of Escherichia coli (TonB/ExbB/ExbD) transduces the protonmotive force (pmf) of the cytoplasmic membrane to drive active transport by high-affinity outer membrane transporters. In this study, chromosomally encoded ExbD formed formaldehyde-linked complexes with TonB, ExbB and itself (homodimers) in vivo. Pmf was required for detectable cross-linking between TonB-ExbD periplasmic domains. Consistent with that observation, the presence of inactivating transmembrane domain mutations ExbD(D25N) or TonB(H20A) also prevented efficient formaldehyde cross-linking between ExbD and TonB. A specific site of periplasmic interaction occurred between ExbD(A92C) and TonB(A150C) and required functional transmembrane domains in both proteins. Conversely, neither TonB, ExbB nor pmf were required for ExbD dimer formation. These data suggest two possible models where either dynamic complex formation occurred through transmembrane domains or the transmembrane domains of ExbD and TonB configure their respective periplasmic domains. Analysis of T7-tagged ExbD with anti-ExbD antibodies revealed that a T7 tag was responsible both for our previous failure to detect T7-ExbD-ExbB and T7-ExbD-TonB formaldehyde-linked complexes and for the concomitant artefactual appearance of T7-ExbD trimers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-481
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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