Signal peptides of gram-positive exoproteins generally carry a higher net positive charge at their amino termini (N regions) and have longer hydrophobic cores (h regions) and carboxy termini (C regions) than do signal peptides of Escherichia coli envelope proteins. To determine if these differences are functionally significant, the ability of Bacillus subtilis to secrete four different E. coli envelope proteins was tested. A pulse-chase analysis demonstrated that the periplasmic maltose-binding protein (MBP), ribose-binding protein (RBP), alkaline phosphatase (PhoA), and outer membrane protein OmpA were only inefficiently secreted. Inefficient secretion could be ascribed largely to properties of the homologous signal peptides, since replacing them with the B. amyloliquefaciens alkaline protease signal peptide resulted in significant increases in both the rate and extent of export. The relative efficiency with which the native precursors were secreted (OmpA >> RBP > MBP > PhoA) was most closely correlated with the overall hydrophobicity of their h regions. This correlation was strengthened by the observation that the B. amyloliquefaciens levansucrase signal peptide, whose h region has an overall hydrophobicity similar to that of E. coli signal peptides, was able to direct secretion of only modest levels of MBP and OmpA. These results imply that there are differences between the secretion machineries of B. subtilis and E. coli and demonstrate that the outer membrane protein OmpA can be translocated across the cytoplasmic membrane of B. subtilis
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