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Banerjee, Tithi; Lindenthal, Christine; Oliver, Donald (2017): SecA functions in vivo as a discrete anti-parallel dimer to promote protein transport. In: Molecular Microbiology, Vol. 103, No. 3: pp. 439-451
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SecA ATPase motor protein plays a central role in bacterial protein transport by binding substrate proteins and the SecY channel complex and utilizing its ATPase activity to drive protein translocation across the plasma membrane. SecA has been shown to exist in a dynamic monomer-dimer equilibrium modulated by translocation ligands, and multiple structural forms of the dimer have been crystallized. Since the structural form of the dimer remains a controversial and unresolved question, we addressed this matter by engineering -benzoylphenylalanine along dimer interfaces corresponding to the five different SecA X-ray structures and assessing their in vivo photo-crosslinking pattern. A discrete anti-parallel 1M6N-like dimer was the dominant if not exclusive dimer found in vivo, whether SecA was cytosolic or in lipid or SecYEG-bound states. SecA bound to a stable translocation intermediate was crosslinked in vivo to a second SecA protomer at its 1M6N interface, suggesting that this specific dimer likely promotes active protein translocation. Taken together, our studies strengthen models that posit, at least in part, a SecA dimer-driven translocation mechanism.