Versatile roles of the chaperonin GroEL in microorganism–insect interactions



The chaperonin 60 (Cpn60) is present in all three kingdoms of life and is one of the most conserved proteins in living organisms. The Escherichia coli Cpn60 (GroEL) is the best studied representative of the huge Cpn60 family. It is an essential protein because in conjunction with the chaperonin 10 (Cpn10 or GroES) it forms a protein-folding machine required for correct folding of many proteins and for recycling of misfolded proteins. As many other chaperones, GroEL and GroES are also known as heat-shock proteins (HSPs), since heat stress leads to a strong induction of their expression, a measure to counteract the increase in misfolded proteins as a result of a high nonphysiological temperature. A large amount of literature is available which is dedicated to the elucidation of how protein folding is assisted by this molecular chaperone. However, apart from this primary task, additional so-called ‘moonlighting’ functions of GroEL proteins unrelated to their folding activity have emerged in the past years. In fact, it becomes apparent that GroEL proteins have diverse functions in particular in mutualistic and pathogenic microorganism–host interactions. In this brief review, we describe some of these recent findings focusing on the importance of GroEL for microorganism–insect interactions.