The lspA gene, encoding the type II signal peptidase of Rickettsia typhi: transcriptional and functional analysis

J Bacteriol. 2007 Jan;189(2):336-41. doi: 10.1128/JB.01397-06. Epub 2006 Nov 10.


Lipoprotein processing by the type II signal peptidase (SPase II) is known to be critical for intracellular growth and virulence for many bacteria, but its role in rickettsiae is unknown. Here, we describe the analysis of lspA, encoding a putative SPase II, an essential component of lipoprotein processing in gram-negative bacteria, from Rickettsia typhi. Alignment of deduced amino acid sequences shows the presence of highly conserved residues and domains that are essential for SPase II activity in lipoprotein processing. The transcription of lspA, lgt (encoding prolipoprotein transferase), and lepB (encoding type I signal peptidase), monitored by real-time quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, reveals a differential expression pattern during various stages of rickettsial intracellular growth. The higher transcriptional level of all three genes at the preinfection time point indicates that only live and metabolically active rickettsiae are capable of infection and inducing host cell phagocytosis. lspA and lgt, which are involved in lipoprotein processing, show similar levels of expression. However, lepB, which is involved in nonlipoprotein secretion, shows a higher level of expression, suggesting that LepB is the major signal peptidase for protein secretion and supporting our in silico prediction that out of 89 secretory proteins, only 14 are lipoproteins. Overexpression of R. typhi lspA in Escherichia coli confers increased globomycin resistance, indicating its function as SPase II. In genetic complementation, recombinant lspA from R. typhi significantly restores the growth of temperature-sensitive E. coli Y815 at the nonpermissive temperature, supporting its biological activity as SPase II in prolipoprotein processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / genetics*
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / physiology
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / drug effects
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rickettsia typhi / drug effects
  • Rickettsia typhi / genetics*
  • Rickettsia typhi / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Peptides
  • globomycin
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases
  • signal peptidase II