The TonB system couples cytoplasmic membrane proton motive force to TonB-gated outer membrane transporters for active transport of nutrients into the periplasm. In Escherichia coli, cytoplasmic membrane proteins ExbB and ExbD promote conformational changes in TonB, which transmits this energy to the transporters. The only known energy-dependent interaction occurs between the periplasmic domains of TonB and ExbD. This study identified sites of in vivo homodimeric interactions within ExbD periplasmic domain residues 92 to 121. ExbD was active as a homodimer (ExbD 2) but not through all Cys substitution sites, suggesting the existence of conformationally dynamic regions in the ExbD periplasmic domain. A subset of homodimeric interactions could not be modeled on the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) structure without significant distortion. Most importantly, the majority of ExbD Cys substitutions that mediated homodimer formation also mediated ExbD-TonB heterodimer formation with TonB A150C. Consistent with the implied competition, ExbD homodimer formation increased in the absence of TonB. Although ExbD D25 was not required for their formation, ExbD dimers interacted in vivo with ExbB. ExbD-TonB interactions required ExbD transmembrane domain residue D25. These results suggested a model where ExbD 2 assembled with ExbB undergoes a transmembrane domain-dependent transition and exchanges partners in localized homodimeric interfaces to form an ExbD 2-TonB heterotrimer. The findings here were also consistent with our previous hypothesis that ExbD guides the conformation of the TonB periplasmic domain, which itself is conformationally dynamic.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology