Editors' ChoiceCell Biology

Jamming Protein Translocation

Sci. Signal.  11 Aug 2009:
Vol. 2, Issue 83, pp. ec267
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.283ec267

Antibiotics are tremendously important drugs in modern medicine, yet we are still learning precisely how they work. SecY is a bacterial membrane protein that is part of a complex that allows protein secretion across the membrane. Van Stelten et al. (see the Perspective by Breukink) found in Escherichia coli cells that if the protein translocator complex becomes jammed with a protein that cannot pass through, the SecY protein is degraded by the protease FtsH, leading to cell death. Cells could be protected by increasing amounts of an inhibitor of FtsH, the YccA protein. Antibiotics that block protein translation also caused jamming of the SecY machinery and destruction of SecY, thus contributing to cell death.

J. van Stelten, F. Silva, D. Belin, T. J. Silhavy, Effects of antibiotics and a proto-oncogene homolog on destruction of protein translocator SecY. Science 325, 753–756 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]

E. Breukink, Lethal traffic jam. Science 325, 684–685 (2009). [Summary] [Full Text]

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