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Nuclease colicins bind their target receptor BtuB in the outer membrane of sensitive Escherichia coli cells in the form of a high-affinity complex with their cognate immunity proteins. The release of the immunity protein from the colicin complex is a prerequisite for cell entry of the colicin and occurs via a process that is still relatively poorly understood. We have previously shown that an energy input in the form of the cytoplasmic membrane proton motive force is required to promote immunity protein (Im9) release from the colicin E9/Im9 complex and colicin cell entry. We report here that engineering rigidity in the structured part of the colicin translocation domain via the introduction of disulfide bonds prevents immunity protein release from the colicin complex. Reduction of the disulfide bond by the addition of DTT leads to immunity protein release and resumption of activity. Similarly, the introduction of a disulfide bond in the DNase domain previously shown to abolish channel formation in planar bilayers also prevented immunity protein release. Importantly, all disulfide bonds, in the translocation as well as the DNase domain, also abolished the biological activity of the Im9-free colicin E9, the reduction of which led to a resumption of activity. Our results show, for the first time, that conformational flexibility in the structured translocation and DNase domains of a nuclease colicin is essential for immunity protein release, providing further evidence for the hypothesis that global structural rearrangement of the colicin molecule is required for disassembly of this high-affinity toxin-immunity protein complex prior to outer membrane translocation.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





853 - 861


Bacteriocin, Escherichia coli, colicin, disulfide bond, translocation, Binding Sites, Colicins, Deoxyribonucleases, Disulfides, Escherichia coli, Gene Expression, Kinetics, Models, Molecular, Mutation, Protein Binding, Protein Structure, Tertiary, Recombinant Proteins