Suppressor Analysis of the Fusogenic Lambda Spanins. Academic Article uri icon


  • The final step of lysis in phage infections of Escherichia coli is mediated by the spanins Rz and Rz1. These proteins form a complex that bridges the cell envelope and that has been proposed to cause fusion of the inner and outer membranes. Accordingly, mutations that block spanin function are found within coiled-coil domains and the proline-rich region, motifs essential in other fusion systems. To gain insight into spanin function, pseudorevertant alleles that restored plaque formation for lysis-defective mutants of Rz and Rz1 were selected. Most second-site suppressors clustered within a coiled-coil domain of Rz near the outer leaflet of the cytoplasmic membrane and were not allele specific. Suppressors largely encoded polar insertions within the hydrophobic core of the coiled-coil interface. Such suppressor changes resulted in decreased proteolytic stability of the Rz double mutants in vivo Unlike the wild type, in which lysis occurs while the cells retain a rod shape, revertant alleles with second-site suppressor mutations supported lysis events that were preceded by spherical cell formation. This suggests that destabilization of the membrane-proximal coiled coil restores function for defective spanin alleles by increasing the conformational freedom of the complex at the cost of its normal, all-or-nothing functionality.IMPORTANCECaudovirales encode cell envelope-spanning proteins called spanins, which are thought to fuse the inner and outer membranes during phage lysis. Recent genetic analysis identified the functional domains of the lambda spanins, which are similar to class I viral fusion proteins. While the pre- and postfusion structures of model fusion systems have been well characterized, the intermediate structure(s) formed during the fusion reaction remains elusive. Genetic analysis would be expected to identify functional connections between intermediates. Since most membrane fusion systems are not genetically tractable, only few such investigations have been reported. Here, we report a suppressor analysis of lambda spanin function. To our knowledge this is the first suppression analysis of a class I-like complex and also the first such analysis of a prokaryote membrane fusion system.

published proceedings

  • J Virol

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Cahill, J., Rajaure, M., Holt, A., Moreland, R., O'Leary, C., Kulkarni, A., Sloan, J., & Young, R. y.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Cahill, Jesse||Rajaure, Manoj||Holt, Ashley||Moreland, Russell||O'Leary, Chandler||Kulkarni, Aneesha||Sloan, Jordan||Young, Ry

editor list (cited editors)

  • Pfeiffer, J. K.

publication date

  • July 2017