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Mol Membr Biol. 2007 Jan-Feb;24(1):28-40.

Identification and characterization of autotransporter proteins of Yersinia pestis KIM.

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  • 1Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Houston, Texas 77204, USA.


Yersinia pestis is a Gram-negative bacterium that causes plague. Currently, plague is considered a re-emerging infectious disease and Y. pestis a potential bioterrorism agent. Autotransporters (ATs) are virulence proteins translocated by a variety of pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria across the cell envelope to the cell surface or extracellular environment. In this study, we screened the genome of Yersinia pestis KIM for AT genes whose expression might be relevant for the pathogenicity of this plague-causing organism. By in silico analyses, we identified ten putative AT genes in the genomic sequence of Y. pestis KIM; two of these genes are located within known pathogenicity islands. The expression of all ten putative AT genes in Y. pestis KIM was confirmed by RT-PCR. Five genes, designated yapA, yapC, yapG, yapK and yapN, were subsequently cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli K12 for protein secretion studies. Two forms of the YapA protein (130 kDa and 115 kDa) were found secreted into the culture medium. Protease cleavage at the C terminus of YapA released the protein from the cell surface. Outer membrane localization of YapC (65 kDa), YapG (100 kDa), YapK (130 kDa), and YapN (60 kDa) was established by cell fractionation, and cell surface localization of YapC and YapN was demonstrated by protease accessibility experiments. In functional studies, YapN and YapK showed hemagglutination activity and YapC exhibited autoagglutination activity. Data reported here represent the first study on Y. pestis ATs.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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