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Proteomics. 2004 Mar;4(3):677-91.

Identification of chromosomally encoded membranal polypeptides of Bacillus anthracis by a proteomic analysis: prevalence of proteins containing S-layer homology domains.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Israel Institute for Biological Research, Ness-Ziona, Israel.


Bacillus anthracis is the causative agent of anthrax disease. Improvement of existing anthrax vaccines, which are currently based on the administration of Protective Antigen (the highly immunogenic nontoxic subunit of the bacterial toxin) may entail other bacterial immunogenic elements, part of which are predicted to reside on the surface of bacterial cells. In the present study, membranal proteins extracted from a stationary-phase culture of a nonvirulent B. anthracis strain, devoid of the native virulence plasmids pXO1 and pXO2, were separated by two-dimensional electrophoresis (2-DE) and a characteristic protein map was defined. The proteomic analysis allowed matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry-assisted identification of 86 protein spots which represent the product of 30 individual open reading frames (ORF). Among these, a prevalent class of proteins was the S-layer proteins (which were found to represent more than 75% of the B. anthracis membranal fraction) and proteins containing S-layer homology (SLH)-membranal localization domains. Five novel SLH proteins, previously inferred only from bioinformatic ORF analysis (draft genome sequence), were identified and one was shown to be a highly abundant membranal protein. Western blots of the 2-DE gels were probed with sera from convalescent rabbits and guinea pigs infected with virulent B. anthracis (Vollum strain). This analysis revealed that B. anthracis immune animals exhibit antibodies against at least 14 distinct membranal proteins present in the 2-DE map, establishing that these proteins are expressed in vivo and are able to elicit an immune response. The identification of the protein components of the B. anthracis membranal fraction, as well as the establishment of their potential immunogenicity, underscore the strength of the proteomic approach for identifying molecules which may serve for further analysis of immune and protective abilities.

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