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J Proteome Res. 2011 Mar 4;10(3):954-67. doi: 10.1021/pr1009756. Epub 2011 Feb 9.

Proteomic characterization and functional analysis of outer membrane vesicles of Francisella novicida suggests possible role in virulence and use as a vaccine.

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Department of Molecular and Microbiology, George Mason University, Manassas, Virginia 20110, USA.


We have isolated and characterized outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) from Francisella. Transport of effector molecules through secretion systems is a major mechanism by which Francisella tularensis alters the extracellular proteome and interacts with the host during infection. Outer membrane vesicles produced by Francisella were examined using TEM and AFM and found to be 43-125 nm in size, representing another potential mechanism for altering the extracellular environment. A proteomic analysis (LC-MS/MS) of OMVs from F. novicida and F. philomiragia identified 416 (F. novicida) and 238 (F. philomiragia) different proteins, demonstrating that OMVs are an important contributor to the extracellular proteome. Many of the identified OMV proteins have a demonstrated role in Francisella pathogenesis. Biochemical assays demonstrated that Francisella OMVs possess acid phosphatase and hemolytic activities that may affect host cells during infection, and are cytotoxic toward murine macrophages in cell culture. OMVs have been previously used as a human vaccine against Neisseria meningitidis . We hypothesized that Francisella OMVs could be useful as a novel Francisella vaccine. Vaccinated BALB/C mice challenged with up to 50 LD50 of Francisella showed statistically significant protection when compared to control mice. In the context of these new findings, we discuss the relevance of OMVs in Francisella pathogenesis as well as their potential use as a vaccine.

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