We investigated the stability of fusion proteins composed of the signal peptide of the heat-labile enterotoxin of Escherichia coli and three polypeptides: the bacterial cytoplasmic chloramphenicol acetyltransferase, the mouse dihydrofolate reductase, and human immune interferon. We demonstrate that these proteins are rapidly degraded as a result of being targeted to the secretion apparatus of E. coli, with the extent of degradation varying among the three fusion proteins. Four lines of experimental evidence are presented in support of this suggestion. First, the chimeric polypeptides containing a functional signal peptide were detected in low amounts in vivo. When a mutation was introduced in the signal peptide, resulting in lack of recognition by the secretion apparatus, the chimeric proteins accumulated at high levels in the cytoplasma of the cell. Second, both the wild-type and mutant polypeptidase accumulated in a purified and reconstituted in vitro translation system from E. coli and were equally susceptible to digestion by an exogenous protease. Third, the chimeric polypeptides lacking the signal peptide accumulated in a stable form in vivo. Fourth, the precursors of the proteins containing a functional signal peptide accumulated in a secA ts mutant at the restrictive temperature when secretion was blocked, suggesting that degradation is tightly linked to the secretion apparatus.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology