We subcloned the structural gene for exotoxin A (ETA) of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in front of the tac promoter in an Escherichia coli expression vector and studied the intracellular location and properties of the protein product. The E. coli K-12 strain that carried this recombinant plasmid produced an immunoreactive protein that was identical to authentic ETA in size and in cytotoxic and ADP-ribosyl transferase activities per unit of immunoreactive material. The protein was predominantly in the periplasmic fraction; and a mutation in the secA gene blocked secretion, processing, and conversion of the protein to a fully toxic conformation. The results indicate that expression of the ETA gene in E. coli yields native ETA, which is localized within the periplasmic space. This organism may therefore serve as a useful host for studying structure and function in ETA.
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