Ion Conductivity of the Bacterial Translocation Channel SecYEG Engaged in Translocation [Membrane Biology]

July 11th, 2014 by Knyazev, D. G., Winter, L., Bauer, B. W., Siligan, C., Pohl, P.

While engaged in protein transport, the bacterial translocon SecYEG must maintain the membrane barrier to small ions. The preservation of the proton motif force was attributed to (i) cation exclusion, (ii) engulfment of the nascent chain by the hydrophobic pore ring, and (iii) a half helix partly plugging the channel. In contrast, we show here that preservation of the proton motif force is due to a voltage driven conformational change. Preprotein or signal peptide binding to the purified and reconstituted SecYEG results in large cation and anion conductivities only when the membrane potential is small. Physiological values of membrane potential close the activated channel. This voltage dependent closure is not dependent on the presence of the plug domain and is not affected by mutation of 3 of the 6 constriction residues to glycines. Cellular ion homeostasis is not challenged by the small remaining leak conductance.