The translational regulatory function of SecM requires the precise timing of membrane targeting

Mee-Ngan Frances Yap, Harris D. Bernstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In Escherichia coli, secA expression is regulated at the translational level by an upstream gene (secM) that encodes a presecretory protein. SecM contains a C-terminal sequence motif that induces a transient translation arrest. Inhibition of SecM membrane targeting prolongs the translation arrest and increases SecA synthesis by concomitantly altering the structure of the secM-secA mRNA. Here we show that the SecM signal peptide plays an essential role in this regulatory process by acting as a molecular timer that co-ordinates membrane targeting with the synthesis of the arrest motif. We found that signal peptide mutations that alter targeting kinetics and insertions or deletions that change the distance between the SecM signal peptide and the arrest motif perturb the balance between the onset and release of arrest that is required to regulate SecA synthesis. Furthermore, we found that the strength of the interaction between the ribosome and the SecM arrest motif is calibrated to ensure the release of arrest upon membrane targeting. Our results strongly suggest that several distinctive features of the SecM protein evolved as a consequence of constraints imposed by the ribosome and the Sec machinery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)540-553
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology


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