Journal of Molecular Biology vol:315 issue:4 pages:831-43
Preprotein translocase is a general and essential system for bacterial protein export, the minimal components of which are SecA and SecYEG. SecA is a peripheral ATPase that associates with nucleotide, preprotein, and the membrane integral SecYEG to form a translocation-competent complex. SecA can be separated into two domains: an N-terminal 68 kDa ATPase domain (N68) that binds preprotein and catalyzes ATP hydrolysis, and a 34 kDa C-terminal domain that regulates the ATPase activity of N68 and mediates dimerization. We have carried out gel filtration chromatography, analytical ultracentrifugation, and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) to demonstrate that isolated N68 self-associates to form a tetramer in solution, indicating that removal of the C-terminal domain facilitates the formation of a higher-order SecA structure. The associative process is best modelled as a monomer-tetramer equilibrium, with a K(D) value of 63 microM(3) (where K(D)=[monomer](4)/[tetramer]) so that at moderate concentrations (10 microM and above), the tetramer is the major species in solution. Hydrodynamic properties of the N68 monomer indicate that it is almost globular in shape, but the N68 tetramer has a more ellipsoidal structure. Analysis of SAXS data indicates that the N68 tetramer is a flattened, bi-lobed structure with dimensions of approximately 13.5 nm x 9.0 nm x 6.5 nm, that appears to contain a central pore.