Ribosomes require the activity of associated GTPases to synthesize proteins. Despite strong evolutionary conservation, the roles of many of these remain unknown. For example, LepA (also known as elongation factor 4) is a ribosome-associated GTPase found in bacteria, mitochondria, and chloroplasts, yet its physiological contribution to cell survival is not clear. Recently, we found that loss of
lepAin Mycobacterium smegmatis(Msm) altered tolerance to rifampin, a drug that targets a non-ribosomal cellular process. To uncover the determinants of LepA-mediated drug tolerance, we characterized the whole-cell proteomes and transcriptomes of a lepAdeletion mutant relative to a wild-type strain. We find that LepA is important for the steady-state abundance of an outer membrane porin, which is integral to nutrient uptake and drug susceptibility. Loss of LepA leads to a decreased amount of porin in the membrane, resulting in the drug tolerance phenotype of the lepAmutant. LepA control requires a sequence motif in the 5 region of the porin transcript. Thus, LepA controls the abundance of specific proteins, likely through its activity during translation. Importance
Our understanding of how ribosomes properly synthesis an entire cellular proteome, in all its complexity, is still evolving. Ribosomal GTPases are often highly conserved, but the roles of many are not well understood. For example, elongation factor 4, or LepA, is a ribosome-associated GTPase conserved across bacteria, mitochondria, and chloroplasts. Using whole-cell proteomics and RNA-sequencing of wild type and a lepA deletion mutant, we find that LepA improves translation of mycobacterial porins in a message-specific manner. As porins play a key role in cell wall permeability, loss of LepA produces a plethora of phenotypic changes. These findings underline the problem of building proteins into a complex cell wall, such as that of mycobacteria, and point to a solution in the use of GTPases such as LepA, that have evolved to aid in specific protein synthesis.