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PLoS One. 2009 Jun 29;4(6):e6071. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006071.

A comprehensive approach to identification of surface-exposed, outer membrane-spanning proteins of Leptospira interrogans.

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Research Service, 151, Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Leptospirosis is a zoonosis with worldwide distribution caused by pathogenic spirochetes belonging to the genus Leptospira. The leptospiral life cycle involves transmission via fresh water and colonization of the renal tubules of their reservoir hosts or infection of accidental hosts, including humans. Bacterial outer membrane proteins (OMPs), particularly those with surface-exposed regions, play crucial roles in virulence mechanisms of pathogens and the adaptation to various environmental conditions, including those of the mammalian host. Little is known about the surface-exposed OMPs in Leptospira, particularly those with outer membrane-spanning domains. Herein, we describe a comprehensive strategy for identification and characterization of leptospiral transmembrane OMPs. The genomic sequence of L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni strain Fiocruz L1-130 allowed us to employ the beta-barrel prediction programs, PRED-TMBB and TMBETA-NET, to identify potential transmembrane OMPs. Several complementary methods were used to characterize four novel OMPs, designated OmpL36, OmpL37, OmpL47 and OmpL54. In addition to surface immunofluorescence and surface biotinylation, we describe surface proteolysis of intact leptospires as an improved method for determining the surface exposure of leptospiral proteins. Membrane integration was confirmed using techniques for removal of peripheral membrane proteins. We also demonstrate deficiencies in the Triton X-114 fractionation method for assessing the outer membrane localization of transmembrane OMPs. Our results establish a broadly applicable strategy for the elucidation of novel surface-exposed outer membrane-spanning proteins of Leptospira, an essential step in the discovery of potential virulence factors, diagnostic antigens and vaccine candidates.

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