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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Adhesive polypeptides of Staphylococcus aureus identified using a novel secretion library technique in Escherichia coli

Riikka Kylväjä1, Matti Kankainen23, Liisa Holm24 and Benita Westerlund-Wikström1*

Author affiliations

1 Division of General Microbiology, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 56 (Viikinkaari 9C), FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

2 Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 56 (Viikinkaari 5), FIN-00014, Helsinki, Finland

3 VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, P.O. Box 1000, FIN-02044 VTT, Espoo, Finland

4 Division of Genetics, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 56 (Viikinkaari 5), FIN-00014, Helsinki, Finland

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Citation and License

BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:117  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-117

Published: 27 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Bacterial adhesive proteins, called adhesins, are frequently the decisive factor in initiation of a bacterial infection. Characterization of such molecules is crucial for the understanding of bacterial pathogenesis, design of vaccines and development of antibacterial drugs. Because adhesins are frequently difficult to express, their characterization has often been hampered. Alternative expression methods developed for the analysis of adhesins, e.g. surface display techniques, suffer from various drawbacks and reports on high-level extracellular secretion of heterologous proteins in Gram-negative bacteria are scarce. These expression techniques are currently a field of active research. The purpose of the current study was to construct a convenient, new technique for identification of unknown bacterial adhesive polypeptides directly from the growth medium of the Escherichia coli host and to identify novel proteinaceous adhesins of the model organism Staphylococcus aureus.

Results

Randomly fragmented chromosomal DNA of S. aureus was cloned into a unique restriction site of our expression vector, which facilitates secretion of foreign FLAG-tagged polypeptides into the growth medium of E. coli ΔfliCΔfliD, to generate a library of 1663 clones expressing FLAG-tagged polypeptides. Sequence and bioinformatics analyses showed that in our example, the library covered approximately 32% of the S. aureus proteome. Polypeptides from the growth medium of the library clones were screened for binding to a selection of S. aureus target molecules and adhesive fragments of known staphylococcal adhesins (e.g coagulase and fibronectin-binding protein A) as well as polypeptides of novel function (e.g. a universal stress protein and phosphoribosylamino-imidazole carboxylase ATPase subunit) were detected. The results were further validated using purified His-tagged recombinant proteins of the corresponding fragments in enzyme-linked immunoassay and surface plasmon resonance analysis.

Conclusions

A new technique for identification of unknown bacterial adhesive polypeptides was constructed. Application of the method on S. aureus allowed us to identify three known adhesins and in addition, five new polypeptides binding to human plasma and extracellular matrix proteins. The method, here used on S. aureus, is convenient due to the use of soluble proteins from the growth medium and can in principle be applied to any bacterial species of interest.