Single-Molecule Studies on the Protein Translocon
Single-molecule studies provide unprecedented details about processes that are difficult to grasp by bulk biochemical assays that yield ensemble-averaged results. One of these processes is the translocation and insertion of proteins across and into the bacterial cytoplasmic membrane. This process is facilitated by the universally conserved secretion (Sec) system, a multi-subunit membrane protein complex that consists of dissociable cytoplasmic targeting components, a molecular motor, a protein-conducting membrane pore, and accessory membrane proteins. Here, we review recent insights into the mechanisms of protein translocation and membrane protein insertion from single-molecule studies.