Protein export into and across the atypical diderm cell envelope of mycobacteria

Vincent J. C. van Winden, Edith N. G. Houben, Miriam Braunstein

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Mycobacteria, including the infamous pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, are high-GC Gram-positive bacteria with a distinctive cell envelope. Although there is a typical inner membrane, the mycobacterial cell envelope is unusual in having its peptidoglycan layer connected to a polymer of arabinogalactan, which in turn is covalently attached to long-chain mycolic acids that help form a highly impermeable mycobacterial outermembrane. This complex double-membrane, or diderm, cell envelope imparts mycobacteria with unique requirements for protein export into and across the cell envelope for secretion into the extracellular environment. In this article, we review the four protein export pathways known to exist in mycobacteria: two conserved systems that exist in all types of bacteria (the Sec and Tat pathways) and two specialized systems that exist in mycobacteria, corynebacteria, and a subset of low-GC Gram-positive bacteria (the SecA2 and type VII secretion pathways). We describe the progress made over the past 15 years in understanding each of these mycobacterial export pathways, and we highlight the need for research to understand the specific steps of protein export across the mycobacterial outer membrane.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberGPP3-0043-2018
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

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