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Summary

The Tol–Pal system of the Escherichia coli cell envelope is composed of five proteins. TolQ, TolR and TolA form a complex in the inner membrane, whereas TolB is a periplasmic protein interacting with Pal, the peptidoglycan-associated lipoprotein anchored to the outer membrane. This system is required for outer membrane integrity and has been shown to form a trans-envelope bridge linking inner and outer membranes. The TolA–Pal interaction plays an important role in the function of this system and has been found to depend on the proton motive force and the TolQ and TolR proteins. The Pal lipoprotein interacts with many components, such as TolA, TolB, OmpA, the major lipoprotein and the murein layer. In this study, six pal deletions were constructed. The analyses of the resulting Pal protein functions and interactions defined an N-terminal region of 40 residues, which can be deleted without any cell-damaging effect, and three independent regions required for its interaction with TolA, OmpA and TolB or the peptidoglycan. The analyses of the integrity of the cells producing the various Pal lipoproteins revealed strong outer membrane destabilization only when binding regions were deleted. Furthermore, a conserved polypeptide sequence located downstream of the peptidoglycan binding motif of Pal was required for the TolA–Pal interaction and for the maintenance of outer membrane stability.