Signal peptide mutants of Escherichia coli

Joseph Gennity, Joel Goldstein, Masayori Inouye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Numerous secretory proteins of the Gram-negative bacteria E. coli are synthesized as precursor proteins which require an amino terminal extension known as the signal peptide for translocation across the cytoplasmic membrane. Following translocation, the signal peptide is proteolytically cleaved from the precursor to produce the mature exported protein. Signal peptides do not exhibit sequence homology, but invariably share common structural features: (1) The basic amino acid residues positioned at the amino terminus of the signal peptide are probably involved in precursor protein binding to the cytoplasmic membrane surface. (2) A stretch of 10 to 15 nonpolar amino acid residues form a hydrophobic core in the signal peptide which can insert into the lipid bilayer. (3) Small residues capable of β-turn formation are located at the cleavage site in the carboxyl terminus of the signal peptide. (4) Charge characteristics of the amino terminal region of the mature protein can also influence precursor protein export. A variety of mutations in each of the structurally distinct regions of the signal peptide have been constructed via site-directed mutagenesis or isolated through genetic selection. These mutants have shed considerable light on the structure and function of the signal peptide and are reviewed here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-269
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


  • Escherichia coli
  • Signal peptide
  • loop model
  • mutation


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