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TolR is a 15-kDa inner membrane protein subunit of the Tol-Pal complex in Gram-negative bacteria, and its function is poorly understood. Tol-Pal is recruited to cell division sites where it is involved in maintaining the integrity of the outer membrane. TolR is related to MotB, the peptidoglycan (PG)-binding stator protein from the flagellum, suggesting it might serve a similar role in Tol-Pal. The only structure thus far reported for TolR is of the periplasmic domain from Haemophilus influenzae in which N- and C-terminal residues had been deleted (TolR(62-133), Escherichia coli numbering). H. influenzae TolR(62-133) is a symmetrical dimer with a large deep cleft at the dimer interface. Here, we present the 1.7-Å crystal structure of the intact periplasmic domain of E. coli TolR (TolR(36-142)). E. coli TolR(36-142) is also dimeric, but the architecture of the dimer is radically different from that of TolR(62-133) due to the intertwining of its N and C termini. TolR monomers are rotated ∼180° relative to each other as a result of this strand swapping, obliterating the putative PG-binding groove seen in TolR(62-133). We found that removal of the strand-swapped regions (TolR(60-133)) exposes cryptic PG binding activity that is absent in the full-length domain. We conclude that to function as a stator in the Tol-Pal complex dimeric TolR must undergo large scale structural remodeling reminiscent of that proposed for MotB, where the N- and C-terminal sequences unfold in order for the protein to both reach and bind the PG layer ∼90 Å away from the inner membrane.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





26675 - 26687


Escherichia coli (E. coli), TolR, bacteria, crystal structure, dimerization, domain, membrane protein, periplasm, strand-swapped, Amino Acid Sequence, Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins, Bacterial Proteins, Binding Sites, Crystallography, X-Ray, Escherichia coli, Escherichia coli Proteins, Flagella, Gene Expression, Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions, Lipoproteins, Membrane Proteins, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data, Peptidoglycan, Periplasm, Protein Binding, Protein Multimerization, Protein Structure, Secondary, Protein Structure, Tertiary, Recombinant Proteins, Sequence Alignment