Date of Award

Fall 12-14-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Phang C. Tai


SecA is a central component of the general secretion system that is essential for growth and virulence of bacteria. A series of fluorescein analogs were tested against ATPase activities of Escherichia coli SecA. Rose Bengal (RB) and Erythrosin B are potent inhibitors abolishing the activities of three forms of SecA ATPase with IC50 in µM range. Both inhibit SecA intrinsic ATPase with two mechanisms depending on ATP concentrations, indicating they influence the two non-identical nucleotide binding sites differently. RB shows different inhibitory effects against three forms of SecA ATPase activities, suggesting that the inhibition is related to the conformation of SecA. RB with IC50 at sub-µM level is the most potent inhibitor of SecA ATPases and SecA-dependent protein translocation to date. The fluorescein analogs inhibit intrinsic ATPase of Bacillus subtilis SecA similarly, and also exhibit antibacterial effects in E. coli and B. subtilis. Our findings indicate the value of fluorescein analogs as probes for mechanistic studies of SecA and the potential development of new SecA-targeted antimicrobial agents.

A series of SecA derivatives with truncated C-terminus within the first long α-helix of the helix-bundle extending the ATPase catalytic domain of N68 was analyzed. These SecA variants interact with lipids, and those containing the C-terminal portion of the long α-helix starting at residues #639 form the ring-like structure in liposomes, indicating the critical domains for forming the protein-conducting channel. The presence and length of the C-domain influence the response to RB of NBDII mutants and C-terminal truncates of SecA. Thus this region may interact with the inhibitors and is involved in the structure and regulation of SecA ATPase activity.

B. subtilis SecA was analyzed for interspecies comparison. Despite sharing high homology, this SecA homolog cannot complement E. coli mutants with SecA defect. Phospholipids do not stimulate ATPase activities of B. subtilis SecA, but induce its conformational changes, leading to the lipid-specific domains and ring-like structures similar to E. coli SecA. These pore-ring structures may represent part of the protein-conducting channels. Therefore, the potential structural roles of SecA in the protein translocation machinery may be universal in both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria.