Colicin import and pore formation: a system for studying protein transport across membranes?

Mol Microbiol. 1995 Jun;16(6):1059-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.1995.tb02331.x.


Pore-forming colicins are a family of protein toxins (M(r) 40-70 kDa) produced by Escherichia coli and related bacteria. They are bactericidal by virtue of their ability to form ion channels in the inner membrane of target cells. They provide a useful means of studying questions such as toxin action, polypeptide translocation across and into membranes, voltage-gated channels and receptor function. These colicins bind to a receptor in the outer membrane before being translocated across the cell envelope with the aid of helper proteins that belong to nutrient-uptake systems and the so-called 'Tol' proteins, the function of which has not yet been properly defined. A distinct domain appears to be associated with each of three steps (receptor binding, translocation and formation of voltage-gated channels). The Tol-dependent uptake pathway is described here. The structures and interactions of TolA, B, Q and R have by now been quite clearly defined. Transmembrane alpha-helix interactions are required for the functional assembly of the E. coli Tol complex, which is preferentially located at contact sites between the inner and outer membranes. The number of colicin translocation sites is about 1000 per cell. The role and the involvement of the OmpF porin (with colicins A and N) have been described in a recent study on the structural and functional interactions of a colicin-resistant mutant of OmpF. The X-ray crystal structure of the channel-forming fragment of colicin A and that of the entire colicin la have provided the basis for biophysical and site-directed mutagenesis studies.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Colicins / chemistry
  • Colicins / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Porins / chemistry
  • Porins / metabolism*
  • Protein Folding


  • Colicins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Porins