TrbB, a periplasmic protein encoded by the conjugative plasmid F, has a predicted thioredoxin-like fold and possesses a C-X-X-C redox active site motif. TrbB may function in the conjugative process by serving as a disulfide bond isomerase, facilitating proper folding of a subset of F-plasmid-encoded proteins in the periplasm. Previous studies have demonstrated that a ΔtrbB F plasmid in Escherichia coli lacking DsbC(E.coli), its native disulfide bond isomerase, experiences a 10-fold decrease in mating efficiency but have not provided direct evidence for disulfide bond isomerase activity. Here we demonstrate that trbB can partially restore transfer of a variant of the distantly related R27 plasmid when both chromosomal and plasmid genes encoding disulfide bond isomerases have been disrupted. In addition, we show that TrbB displays both disulfide bond isomerase and reductase activities on substrates not involved in the conjugative process. Unlike canonical members of the disulfide bond isomerase family, secondary structure predictions suggest that TrbB lacks both an N-terminal dimerization domain and an α-helical domain found in other disulfide bond isomerases. Phylogenetic analyses support the conclusion that TrbB belongs to a unique family of plasmid-based disulfide isomerases. Interestingly, although TrbB diverges structurally from other disulfide bond isomerases, we show that like those isomerases, TrbB relies on DsbD from E. coli for maintenance of its C-X-X-C redox active site motif.
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