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J Bacteriol. 1998 Jul;180(14):3541-7.

Expression of a gene for a porin-like protein of the OmpA family from Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv.

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  • 1National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London NW7 1AA, England.


An open reading frame in the genomic database of Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv was identified as having homology with an outer membrane protein. We found that the gene specified a protein belonging to the OmpA family, which includes some porins of gram-negative organisms. The gene was amplified by PCR and cloned into Escherichia coli. Overexpression of the gene was toxic to the host, but limited amounts could be purified from cells before growth ceased. A truncated gene devoid of the code for a presumed signal sequence was well expressed, but the protein had no pore-forming activity in the liposome swelling assay. However, the intact protein, OmpATb, behaved as a porin of low specific activity, with a pore diameter of 1.4 to 1.8 nm, and was also active in planar lipid bilayers, showing a single-channel conductance of 700 pS. The protein had a molecular mass of about 38 kDa in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. A polyclonal rabbit antiserum raised to the truncated protein recognized a protein of similar molecular mass in detergent extracts of broken M. tuberculosis cells. Reverse transcription-PCR confirmed that the gene for OmpATb was expressed in M. tuberculosis cells growing in culture. Comparison of the purified protein with that in the detergent-extracted preparation using liposomes and planar lipid bilayers showed that the two materials had similar pore-forming properties. OmpATb is different from either of the mycobacterial porins described so far. This is the first report of a porin-like molecule from M. tuberculosis; the porin is likely to be important in controlling the access of hydrophilic molecules to the bacterial cell.

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