Secretion incompetence of bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor expressed in Escherichia coli

B. Nilsson, C. Berman-Marks, I. D. Kuntz, S. Anderson

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36 Scopus citations


There is increasing evidence that protein folding and protein export are competing processes in prokaryotic cells. Virtually all secretion studies reported to date, however, have employed proteins that are relatively uncharacterized in terms of their folding behavior and three-dimensional structure. In contrast, the structural and biochemical parameters governing the folding of bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (BPTI) and several of its mutants have been studied intensively. We therefore undertook a study of the secretion behavior in Escherichia coli of recombinant BPTI and its mutants. Wild-type BPTI and two well-characterized folding mutants (C14A, C38A)BPTI and (C30A, C51A)BPTI (missing the 14-38 and 30-51 disulfide bonds, respectively), were investigated by analyzing their expression fused to an E. coli signal sequence or to two synthetic IgG-binding domains of staphylococcal protein A. Both disulfide mutants are destabilized relative to wild-type BPTI and exhibit markedly altered folding kinetics: one (C14A, C38A) folds more slowly than wild-type BPTI and the other (C30A, C51A) unfolds more rapidly. Both mutants were observed to be exported 3-10 times more efficiently than the wild-type molecule. Moreover, the levels of unprocessed preprotein in the cytoplasm were severalfold higher for the wild-type fusion than for the fusion to the two folding mutants. Intracellular degradation of the BPTI moiety was also observed. These results are consistent with traffic of intracellular BPTI preproteins on at least three routes along the secretory pathway: (a) facile secretion of unfolded material, (b) intracellular folding leading to secretion blockage, and (c) degradation followed by export of truncated molecules. A novel feature of these findings is the implication that disulfide bonds can form in the bacterial cytoplasm and lead to secretion incompetence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2970-2977
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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