The chaplins are a family of eight secreted proteins that are critical for raising aerial hyphae in
Streptomyces coelicolor. These eight chaplins can be separated into two main groups: the long chaplins (ChpA to -C) and the short chaplins (ChpD to -H). The short chaplins can be further subdivided on the basis of their abilities to form intramolecular disulfide bonds: ChpD, -F, -G, and -H contain two Cys residues, while ChpE has none. A “minimal chaplin strain” containing only chpC, chpE, and chpHwas constructed and was found to raise a substantial aerial mycelium. This strain was used to examine the roles of specific chaplins. Within this strain, the Cys-containing ChpH was identified as the major polymerization unit contributing to aerial hypha formation and assembly of an intricate rodlet ultrastructure on the aerial surfaces, and the two Cys residues were determined to be critical for its function. ChpC augmented aerial hypha formation and rodlet assembly, likely by anchoring the short chaplins to the cell surface, while ChpE was essential for the viability of wild-type S. coelicolor. Interestingly, the lethal effects of a chpEnull mutation could be suppressed by the loss of the other chaplins, the inactivation of the twin arginine translocation (Tat) secretion pathway, or the loss of the rodlins.