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The Providencia stuartii AarA protein is a member of the rhomboid family of intramembrane serine proteases and is required for the production of an unknown quorum-sensing molecule. In a screen to identify rhomboid-encoding genes from Proteus mirabilis, tatA was identified as a multicopy suppressor and restored extracellular signal production as well as complementing all other phenotypes of a Prov. stuartii aarA mutant. TatA is a component of the twin-arginine translocase (Tat) protein secretion pathway and likely forms a secretion pore. By contrast, the native tatA gene of Prov. stuartii in multicopy did not suppress an aarA mutation. We find that TatA in Prov. stuartii has a short N-terminal extension that was atypical of TatA proteins from most other bacteria. This extension was proteolytically removed by AarA both in vivo and in vitro. A Prov. stuartii TatA protein missing the first 7 aa restored the ability to rescue the aarA-dependent phenotypes. To verify that loss of the Tat system was responsible for the various phenotypes exhibited by an aarA mutant, a tatC-null allele was constructed. The tatC mutant exhibited the same phenotypes as an aarA mutant and was epistatic to aarA. These data provide a molecular explanation for the requirement of AarA in quorum-sensing and uncover a function for the Tat protein export system in the production of secreted signaling molecules. Finally, TatA represents a validated natural substrate for a prokaryotic rhomboid protease.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





1003 - 1008


Amino Acid Sequence, Amino Acids, Bacterial Proteins, Biological Transport, Enzyme Activation, Gene Dosage, Gene Expression, Membrane Transport Proteins, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutation, Operon, Phenotype, Providencia, Quorum Sensing, Repressor Proteins, Sequence Alignment, Signal Transduction