Molecular chaperone DnaK of halophilic Tetragenococcus halophilus JCM5888 was characterized under salinity conditions both in vitro and in vivo. The dnaK gene was cloned into an expression vector and transformed into Escherichia coli. The DnaK protein obtained from the recombinant E. coli showed a significantly higher refolding activity of denatured lactate dehydrogenase than that from non-halophilic Lactococcus lactis under NaCl concentrations higher than 1 M. E. coil without the overexpression of DnaK exhibited a growth profile with a prolonged lag phase and suppressed maximum cell density in Luria-Bertani medium containing 5% (0.86 M) NaCl. On the contrary, the overexpression of T. halophilus DnaK greatly shortened this prolonged lag phase with no effect on maximum growth, while that of L. lactis DnaK decreased maximum growth. The amount of protein aggregates was increased by salt stress in the E. coli cells, while this aggregation was greatly suppressed by the overexpression of T. halophilus DnaK. These results suggest that heterologous overexpression of T. halophilus DnaK, via its chaperone activity, promotes salinity adaptation of E. coli.
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