Escherichia coli heat-stable enterotoxin Ip (STIp) is an extracellular toxin consisting of 18 amino acid residues that is synthesized as a precursor of pre (amino acid residues 1 to 19), pro (amino acid residues 20 to 54), and mature (amino acid residues 55 to 72) regions. The precursor synthesized in the cytoplasm is translocated across the inner membrane by the general export pathway consisting of Sec proteins. The pre region functions as a leader peptide and is cleaved during translocation. However, it remains unknown how the resulting peptide (pro-mature peptide) translocates across the outer membrane. In this study, we investigated the structure of the STIp that passes through the outer membrane to determine how it translocates through the outer membrane. The results showed that the pro region is cleaved in the periplasmic space. The generated peptide becomes the mature form of STIp, which happens to have disulfide bonds, which then passes through the outer membrane. We also showed that STIp with a carboxy-terminal peptide consisting of 3 amino acid residues passes through the outer membrane, whereas STIp with a peptide composed of 37 residues does not. Amino acid analysis of mutant STIp purified from culture supernatant revealed that the peptide composed of 37 amino acid residues was cleaved into fragments of 5 amino acid residues. In addition, analyses of STIps with a mutation at the cysteine residue and the dsbA mutant strain revealed that the formation of an intramolecular disulfide bond within STIp is not absolutely required for the mature region of STIp to pass through the outer membrane
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