Tail-anchored membrane proteins (TAMPs) are a distinct subset of inner membrane proteins (IMPs) characterized by a single C-terminal transmembrane domain (TMD) that is responsible for both targeting and anchoring. Little is known about the routing of TAMPs in bacteria. Here, we have investigated the role of TMD hydrophobicity in tail-anchor function in and its influence on the choice of targeting/insertion pathway. We created a set of synthetic, fluorescent TAMPs that vary in the hydrophobicity of their TMDs and corresponding control polypeptides that are extended at their C terminus to create regular type II IMPs. Surprisingly, we observed that TAMPs have a much lower TMD hydrophobicity threshold for efficient targeting and membrane insertion than their type II counterparts. Using strains conditional for the expression of known membrane-targeting and insertion factors, we show that TAMPs with strongly hydrophobic TMDs require the signal recognition particle (SRP) for targeting. Neither the SecYEG translocon nor YidC appears to be essential for the membrane insertion of any of the TAMPs studied. In contrast, corresponding type II IMPs with a TMD of sufficient hydrophobicity to promote membrane insertion followed an SRP- and SecYEG translocon-dependent pathway. Together, these data indicate that the capacity of a TMD to promote the biogenesis of IMPs is strongly dependent upon the polypeptide context in which it is presented. A subset of membrane proteins is targeted to and inserted into the membrane via a hydrophobic transmembrane domain (TMD) that is positioned at the very C terminus of the protein. The biogenesis of these so-called tail-anchored proteins (TAMPs) has been studied in detail in eukaryotic cells. Various partly redundant pathways were identified, the choice for which depends in part on the hydrophobicity of the TMD. Much less is known about bacterial TAMPs. The significance of our research is in identifying the role of TMD hydrophobicity in the routing of TAMPs. Our data suggest that both the nature of the TMD and its role in routing can be very different for TAMPs versus "regular" membrane proteins. Elucidating these position-specific effects of TMDs will increase our understanding of how prokaryotic cells face the challenge of producing a wide variety of membrane proteins.
PMID: 31615956 [PubMed - in process]