Mapping of the Signal Peptide-Binding Domain of <i>Escherichia coli</i> SecA Using Förster Resonance Energy Transfer

Identification of the signal peptide-binding domain within SecA ATPase is an important goal for understanding the molecular basis of SecA preprotein recognition as well as elucidating the chemo-mechanical cycle of this nanomotor during protein translocation. In this study, Förster resonance energy transfer methodology was employed to map the location of the SecA signal peptide-binding domain using a collection of functional monocysteine SecA mutants and alkaline phosphatase signal peptides labeled with appropriate donor−acceptor fluorophores. Fluorescence anisotropy measurements yielded an equilibrium binding constant of 1.4 or 10.7 μM for the alkaline phosphatase signal peptide labeled at residue 22 or 2, respectively, with SecA, and a binding stoichiometry of one signal peptide bound per SecA monomer. Binding affinity measurements performed with a monomer-biased mutant indicate that the signal peptide binds equally well to SecA monomer or dimer. Distance measurements determined for 13 SecA mutants show that the SecA signal peptide-binding domain encompasses a portion of the preprotein cross-linking domain but also includes regions of nucleotide-binding domain 1 and particularly the helical scaffold domain. The identified region lies at a multidomain interface within the heart of SecA, surrounded by and potentially responsive to domains important for binding nucleotide, mature portions of the preprotein, and the SecYEG channel. Our FRET-mapped binding domain, in contrast to the domain identified by NMR spectroscopy, includes the two-helix finger that has been shown to interact with the preprotein during translocation and lies at the entrance to the protein-conducting channel in the recently determined SecA−SecYEG structure.