Regulated intramembrane proteolysis of the virulence activator TcpP in Vibrio cholerae is initiated by the tail-specific protease (Tsp).
Proteolytic cascades are widely implicated in signaling between cellular compartments. In Escherichia coli, accumulation of unassembled outer membrane porins (OMPs) in the envelope leads to expression of sigma(E)-dependent genes in the cytoplasmic cellular compartment. A proteolytic cascade conveys the OMP signal by regulated proteolysis of RseA, a membrane-spanning anti-sigma factor whose cytoplasmic domain inhibits sigma(E)-dependent transcription. Upon activation by OMP C termini, the membrane localized DegS protease cleaves RseA in its periplasmic domain, the membrane-embedded protease RseP (YaeL) cleaves RseA near the inner membrane, and the released cytoplasmic RseA fragment is further degraded. Initiation of RseA degradation by activated DegS makes the system sensitive to a wide range of OMP concentrations and unresponsive to variations in the levels of DegS and RseP proteases. These features rely on the inability of RseP to cleave intact RseA. In the present report, we demonstrate that RseB, which binds to the periplasmic face of RseA, and DegS each independently inhibits RseP cleavage of intact RseA. Thus, the function of RseB, widely conserved among bacteria using the sigma(E) pathway, and the second role of DegS (in addition to RseA proteolysis initiation) is to improve the performance characteristics of this signal transduction system.