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J Bacteriol. 2012 Aug;194(15):3950-60. doi: 10.1128/JB.06769-11. Epub 2012 May 18.

Identification of Ata, a multifunctional trimeric autotransporter of Acinetobacter baumannii.

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  • 1Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Acinetobacter baumannii has recently emerged as a highly troublesome nosocomial pathogen, especially in patients in intensive care units and in those undergoing mechanical ventilation. We have identified a surface protein adhesin of A. baumannii, designated the Acinetobacter trimeric autotransporter (Ata), that contains all of the typical features of trimeric autotransporters (TA), including a long signal peptide followed by an N-terminal, surface-exposed passenger domain and a C-terminal domain encoding 4 β-strands. To demonstrate that Ata encoded a TA, we created a fusion protein in which we replaced the entire passenger domain of Ata with the epitope tag V5, which can be tracked with specific monoclonal antibodies, and demonstrated that the C-terminal 101 amino acids of Ata were capable of exporting the heterologous V5 tag to the surface of A. baumannii in a trimeric form. We found that Ata played a role in biofilm formation and bound to various extracellular matrix/basal membrane (ECM/BM) components, including collagen types I, III, IV, and V and laminin. Moreover, Ata mediated the adhesion of whole A. baumannii cells to immobilized collagen type IV and played a role in the survival of A. baumannii in a lethal model of systemic infection in immunocompetent mice. Taken together, these results reveal that Ata is a TA of A. baumannii involved in virulence, including biofilm formation, binding to ECM/BM proteins, mediating the adhesion of A. baumannii cells to collagen type IV, and contributing to the survival of A. baumannii in a mouse model of lethal infection.

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