Signal peptides (SPs) target proteins to the secretory pathway and are cleaved from the nascent chain once the translocase in the ER has been engaged. Signal-anchor (SA) sequences also interact transiently with the ER translocase, but are not cleaved and move laterally out of the translocase to become permanent membrane anchors. One obvious difference between SP and SA sequences is the considerably longer hydrophobic regions (h regions) of the latter. To study the interaction between SP/SA sequences and the ER translocase, we have constructed signal sequences with poly-Leu h regions ranging in length from 8 to 29 residues and have characterized their locations within the translocase using both a new assay that measures the minimum number of amino acids needed to span the distance between the COOH-terminal end of the h region and the active site of the oligosaccharyl transferase enzyme and an assay where the efficiency of signal peptidase catalyzed cleavage is measured. Our results suggest that SP and SA sequences are positioned differently in the ER translocase.

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