Signal Peptide Hydrophobicity Modulates Interaction with the Twin-Arginine Translocase

Qi Huang, Tracy Palmer (Lead / Corresponding author)

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18 Citations (Scopus)
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The general secretory pathway (Sec) and twin-arginine translocase (Tat) operate in parallel to export proteins across the cytoplasmic membrane of prokaryotes and the thylakoid membrane of plant chloroplasts. Substrates are targeted to their respective machineries by N-terminal signal peptides that share a common tripartite organization, however Tat signal peptides harbor a conserved and almost invariant arginine pair that are critical for efficient targeting to the Tat machinery. Tat signal peptides interact with a membrane-bound receptor complex comprised of TatB and TatC components, with TatC containing the twin-arginine recognition site. Here we isolated suppressors in the signal peptide of the Tat substrate, SufI, that restored Tat transport in the presence of inactivating substitutions in the TatC twin-arginine binding site. These suppressors increased signal peptide hydrophobicity, and co-purification experiments indicated that they restored binding to the variant TatBC complex. The hydrophobic suppressors could also act in cis to suppress substitutions at the signal peptide twin-arginine motif that normally prevent targeting to the Tat pathway. Highly hydrophobic variants of the SufI signal peptide containing four leucine substitutions retained the ability to interact with the Tat system. The hydrophobic signal peptides of two Sec substrates, DsbA and OmpA, containing twin lysine residues, were shown to mediate export by the Tat pathway and to copurify with TatBC. These findings indicate that there is unprecedented overlap between Sec and Tat signal peptides and that neither the signal peptide twin-arginine motif nor the TatC twin-arginine recognition site are essential mechanistic features for operation of the Tat pathway.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00909-17
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Sec pathway
  • Tat pathway
  • Protein secretion
  • Signal peptide
  • Suppressor genetics


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