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Colicins are Escherichia coli-specific bacteriocins that translocate across the outer bacterial membrane by a poorly understood mechanism. Group A colicins typically parasitize the proton-motive force-linked Tol system in the inner membrane via porins after first binding an outer membrane protein receptor. Recent studies have suggested that the pore-forming group A colicin N (ColN) instead uses lipopolysaccharide as a receptor. Contrary to this prevailing view, using diffusion-precipitation assays, native state MS, isothermal titration calorimetry, single-channel conductance measurements in planar lipid bilayers, and in vivo fluorescence imaging, we demonstrate here that ColN uses OmpF both as its receptor and translocator. This dual function is achieved by ColN having multiple distinct OmpF-binding sites, one located within its central globular domain and another within its disordered N terminus. We observed that the ColN globular domain associates with the extracellular surface of OmpF and that lipopolysaccharide (LPS) enhances this binding. Approximately 90 amino acids of ColN then translocate through the porin, enabling the ColN N terminus to localize within the lumen of an OmpF subunit from the periplasmic side of the membrane, a binding mode reminiscent of that observed for the nuclease colicin E9. We conclude that bifurcated engagement of porins is intrinsic to the import mechanism of group A colicins.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





9147 - 9156


Gram-negative bacteria, OmpF, bacteriocin, calorimetry, colicin N, colicin N (ColN,), fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP), gram-negative bacteria, isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), mass spectrometry (MS), microscopy, osmoregulation, outer membrane, porin, translocation