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Summary

Activity of the Tat machinery for protein transport across the inner membrane of Escherichia coli and the chloroplast thylakoidal membrane requires the presence of three membrane proteins: TatA, TatB and TatC. Here, we show that the Tat machinery of the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis is very different because it contains at least two minimal Tat translocases, each composed of one specific TatA and one specific TatC component. A third, TatB-like component is apparently not required. This implies that TatA proteins of B. subtilis perform the functions of both TatA and TatB of E. coli and thylakoids. Notably, the two B. subtilis translocases named TatAdCd and TatAyCy both function as individual, substrate-specific translocases for the twin-arginine preproteins PhoD and YwbN, respectively. Importantly, these minimal TatAC translocases of B. subtilis are representative for the Tat machinery of the vast majority of Gram-positive bacteria, Streptomycetes being the only known exception with TatABC translocases.