The α-amylase gene, was expressed under the regulated control of the levansucrase leader region. The gene fusion including the complete coding sequence with the signal peptide sequence was integrated into the chromosome of a (Hy) strain deleted of the DNA fragment. In this genetic context, α-amylase is produced in the culture supernatant at a high level (2% of total protein) during the exponential phase of growth upon induction by sucrose. Pulse-chase experiments showed that the rate-limiting step ( = 120 s) of the secretion process is the release of a cell-associated precursor form whose signal peptide has been cleaved. The efficiency of this ultimate step of secretion decreased dramatically in the presence of a metal chelator (EDTA) or when the cells were converted to protoplasts. The hypothesis that this step is tightly coupled with the folding process of α-amylase occurring within the cell wall environment was substantiated by folding studies. The unfolding-folding transition, monitored by the resistance to proteolysis, was achieved within the same time range ( = 60 s) and required the presence of calcium. This metal requirement could possibly be satisfied by the integrity of the cell wail. The of the α-amylase release step is double that of levansucrase, although their folding rates are similar. This perhaps indicates that the passage through the cell wall may depend on parietal properties (e.g. metal ion binding and porosity) and on certain intrinsic properties of the protein (molecular mass and folding properties).


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