Role of the TonB amino terminus in energy transduction between membranes

J. C. Jaskula, T. E. Letain, S. K. Roof, J. T. Skare, K. Postle

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67 Scopus citations


Escherichia coli TonB protein is an energy transducer, coupling cytoplasmic membrane energy to active transport of vitamin B12 and iron- siderophores across the outer membrane. TonB is anchored in the cytoplasmic membrane by its hydrophobic amino terminus, with the remainder occupying the periplasmic space. In this report we establish several functions for the hydrophobic amino terminus of TonB. A G-26-D substitution in the amino terminus prevents export of TonB, suggesting that the amino terminus contains an export signal for proper localization of TonB within the cell envelope. Substitution of the first membrane-spanning domain of the cytoplasmic membrane protein TetA for the TonB amino terminus eliminates TonB activity without altering TonB export, suggesting that the amino terminus contains sequence-specific information. Detectable TonB cross-linking to ExbB is also prevented, suggesting that the two proteins interact primarily through their transmembrane domains. In vivo cleavage of the amino terminus of TonB carrying an engineered leader peptidase cleavage site eliminates (i) TonB activity, (ii) detectable interaction with a membrane fraction having a density intermediate to those of the cytoplasmic and outer membranes, and (iii) cross-linking to ExbB. In contrast, the amino terminus is not required for cross-linking to other proteins with which TonB can form complexes, including FepA. Additionally, although the amino terminus clearly is a membrane anchor, it is not the only means by which TonB associates with the cytoplasmic membrane. TonB lacking its amino-terminal membrane anchor still remains largely associated with the cytoplasmic membrane.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2326-2338
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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