The Tat substrate CueO is transported in an incomplete folding state

authored by
Patrick Stolle, Bo Hou, Thomas Brüser

In Escherichia coli, cytoplasmic copper ions are toxic to cells even at the lowest concentrations. As a defense strategy, the cuprous oxidase CueO is secreted into the periplasm to oxidize the more membrane-permeable and toxic Cu(I) before it can enter the cytoplasm. CueO itself is a multicopper oxidase that requires copper for activity. Because it is transported by the twin-arginine translocation (Tat) pathway, which transports folded proteins, a requirement for cofactor assembly before translocation has been discussed. Here we show that CueO is transported as an apo-protein. Periplasmic CueO was readily activated by the addition of copper ions in vitro or under copper stress conditions in vivo. Cytoplasmic CueO did not contain copper, even under copper stress conditions. In vitro Tat transport proved that the cofactor assembly was not required for functional Tat transport of CueO. Due to the post-translocational activation of CueO, this enzyme contributes to copper resistance not only by its cuprous oxidase activity but also by chelation of copper ions before they can enter the cytoplasm. Apo-CueO was indistinguishable from holo-CueO in terms of secondary structural elements. Importantly, the binding of copper to apo-CueO greatly stabilized the protein, indicating a transformation from an open or flexible domain arrangement with accessible copper sites to a closed structure with deeply buried copper ions. CueO is thus the first example for a natural Tat substrate of such incomplete folding state. The Tat system may need to transport flexibly folded proteins in any case when cofactor assembly or quaternary structure formation occurs after transport.

Institute of Microbiology
Journal of Biological Chemistry
No. of pages
Publication date
Publication status
Peer reviewed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology
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