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Molecular chaperones DnaK and DnaJ share predicted binding sites on most proteins in the E. coli proteome


In Escherichia coli, the molecular chaperones DnaK and DnaJ cooperate to assist the folding of newly synthesized or unfolded polypeptides. DnaK and DnaJ bind to hydrophobic motifs in these proteins and they also bind to each other. Together, this system is thought to be sufficiently versatile to act on the entire proteome, which creates interesting challenges in understanding the interactions between DnaK, DnaJ and their thousands of potential substrates. To address this question, we computationally predicted the number and frequency of DnaK- and DnaJ-binding motifs in the E. coli proteome, guided by free energy-based binding consensus motifs. This analysis revealed that nearly every protein is predicted to contain multiple DnaK- and DnaJ-binding sites, with the DnaJ sites occurring approximately twice as often. Further, we found that an overwhelming majority of the DnaK sites partially or completely overlapped with the DnaJ-binding motifs. It is well known that high concentrations of DnaJ inhibit DnaK-DnaJ-mediated refolding. The observed overlapping binding sites suggest that this phenomenon may be explained by an important balance in the relative stoichiometry of DnaK and DnaJ. To test this idea, we measured the chaperone-assisted folding of two denatured substrates and found that the distribution of predicted DnaK- and DnaJ-binding sites was indeed a good predictor of the optimal stoichiometry required for folding. These studies provide insight into how DnaK and DnaJ might cooperate to maintain global protein homeostasis.

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