Proteolysis in bacterial regulatory circuits

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2003;19:565-87. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.19.110701.153228.


Proteolysis by cytoplasmic, energy-dependent proteases plays a critical role in many regulatory circuits, keeping basal levels of regulatory proteins low and rapidly removing proteins when they are no longer needed. In bacteria, four families of energy-dependent proteases carry out degradation. In all of them, substrates are first recognized and bound by ATPase domains and then unfolded and translocated to a sequestered proteolytic chamber. Substrate selection depends not on ubiquitin but on intrinsic recognition signals within the proteins and, in some cases, on adaptor or effector proteins that participate in delivering the substrate to the protease. For some, the activity of these adaptors can be regulated, which results in regulated proteolysis. Recognition motifs for proteolysis are frequently found at the N and C termini of substrates. Proteolytic switches appear to be critical for cell cycle development in Caulobacter crescentus, for proper sporulation in Bacillus subtilis, and for the transition in and out of stationary phase in Escherichia coli. In eukaryotes, the same proteases are found in organelles, where they also play important roles.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport / metabolism
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / enzymology
  • Feedback, Physiological / physiology
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / physiology


  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases