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Abnormal fractionation of beta-lactamase in Escherichia coli: evidence for an interaction with the inner membrane in the absence of a leader peptide.

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  • Research Article
  • Biology


beta-Lactamase with the -20 to -1 region of the leader peptide deleted (almost complete deletion of the leader peptide) [delta(-20,-1) beta-lactamase] was released from Escherichia coli cells by osmotic shock. Fractionation of the cells by conversion to spheroplasts and protease accessibility experiments further indicated that a portion of the protein may be bound to the cytoplasmic membrane and be partially exposed in the periplasmic space. Expression of delta(-20,-1) beta-lactamase conferred a 25-fold increase in the 50% lethal dose for ampicillin relative to that for controls, thus confirming that a small amount (about 2%) of the active protein is completely exported from the cytoplasm. These results suggest that even in the absence of a leader peptide, mature beta-lactamase is able to interact with the cytoplasmic membrane and be translocated into the periplasmic space, albeit with a low efficiency.

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