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© 2015, American Society for Microbiology. The ability to persist and grow under alkaline conditions is an important characteristic of many bacteria. In order to survive at alkaline pH, Escherichia coli must maintain a stable cytoplasmic pH of about 7.6. Membrane cation/proton antiporters play a major role in alkaline pH homeostasis by catalyzing active inward proton transport. The DedA/Tvp38 family is a highly conserved membrane protein family of unknown function present in most sequenced genomes. YqjA and YghB are members of the E. coli DedA family with 62% amino acid identity and partially redundant functions. We have shown that E. coli with ΔyqjA and ΔyghB mutations cannot properly maintain the proton motive force (PMF) and is compromised in PMF-dependent drug efflux and other PMF-dependent functions. Furthermore, the functions of YqjA and YghB are dependent upon membrane-embedded acidic amino acids, a hallmark of several families of proton-dependent transporters. Here, we show that the ΔyqjA mutant (but not ΔyghB) cannot grow under alkaline conditions (ranging from pH 8.5 to 9.5), unlike the parent E. coli. Overexpression of yqjA restores growth at alkaline pH, but only when more than ~100mM sodium or potassium is present in the growth medium. Increasing the osmotic pressure by the addition of sucrose enhances the ability of YqjA to support growth under alkaline conditions in the presence of low salt concentrations, consistent with YqjA functioning as an osmosensor. We suggest that YqjA possesses proton-dependent transport activity that is stimulated by osmolarity and that it plays a significant role in the survival of E. coli at alkaline pH.

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Journal of Bacteriology

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