TAT-pathway-dependent lipoproteins as a niche-based adaptation in prokaryotes

J Mol Evol. 2010 Apr;70(4):359-70. doi: 10.1007/s00239-010-9334-2. Epub 2010 Mar 24.


Bacterial lipoproteins, characterized by the N-terminal N-acyl S-diacylglyceryl Cysteine, are key membrane proteins in bacterial homeostasis. It is generally thought that during the modification lipoprotein precursors are translocated via the Sec-machinery in an unfolded state. The recent discovery of twin-arginine translocation (TAT) machinery, meant for exporting folded-proteins, and the presence of TAT-type signal sequences in co-factor-containing (hence already folded) lipoproteins, prompted us to investigate its role and significance in lipoprotein biosynthesis. We systematically analyzed 696 prokaryotic genomes using an algorithm based on DOLOP and TatP rules to predict TAT-pathway-dependent lipoprotein substrates. Occurrence of the deduced TAT-pathway-dependent lipoprotein substrates in relation to genome size, presence or absence of TAT machinery, and extent of its usage for lipoprotein export and habitat types revealed that unlike the host-obligates, the free-living prokaryotes in complex hostile environments (e.g., soil) depend more on TAT-exported lipoproteins. Functional classification of the predicted TAT-dependent lipoproteins revealed enrichment in hydrolases and oxido-reductases, which are fast-folding and co-factor-containing proteins. The role of the TAT pathway in the export of folded-lipoproteins and in niche-specific adaptation for survival has important implications not only in lipoprotein biosynthesis, but also for protein and metabolic engineering applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Archaeal Proteins / genetics
  • Archaeal Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Enzymes / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genome, Archaeal
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Lipoproteins / genetics
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism
  • Lipoproteins / physiology*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Sorting Signals*


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Enzymes
  • Lipoproteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Protein Sorting Signals