Elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) is involved in the binding and transport of the appropriate codon-specified aminoacyl-tRNA to the aminoacyl site of the ribosome. We report herewith that the Escherichia coli EF-Tu interacts with unfolded and denatured proteins as do molecular chaperones that are involved in protein folding and protein renaturation after stress. EF-Tu promotes the functional folding of citrate synthase and alpha-glucosidase after urea denaturation. It prevents the aggregation of citrate synthase under heat shock conditions, and it forms stable complexes with several unfolded proteins such as reduced carboxymethyl alpha-lactalbumin and unfolded bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor. The EF-Tu.GDP complex is much more active than EF-Tu.GTP in stimulating protein renaturation. These chaperone-like functions of EF-Tu occur at concentrations that are at least 20-fold lower than the cellular concentration of this factor. These results suggest that EF-Tu, in addition to its function in translation elongation, might be implicated in protein folding and protection from stress.
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Elongation factor Tu and DnaK are transferred from the cytoplasm to the periplasm of Escherichia coli during osmotic downshock presumably via the mechanosensitive channel mscL.
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