Incorporation of heterologous outer membrane and periplasmic proteins into Escherichia coli outer membrane vesicles.
Gram-negative bacteria shed outer membrane vesicles composed of outer membrane and periplasmic components. Since vesicles from pathogenic bacteria contain virulence factors and have been shown to interact with eukaryotic cells, it has been proposed that vesicles behave as delivery vehicles. We wanted to determine whether heterologously expressed proteins would be incorporated into the membrane and lumen of vesicles and whether these altered vesicles would associate with host cells. Ail, an outer membrane adhesin/invasin from Yersinia enterocolitica, was detected in purified outer membrane and in vesicles from Escherichia coli strains DH5alpha, HB101, and MC4100 transformed with plasmid-encoded Ail. In vesicle-host cell co-incubation assays we found that vesicles containing Ail were internalized by eukaryotic cells, unlike vesicles without Ail. To determine whether lumenal vesicle contents could be modified and delivered to host cells, we used periplasmically expressed green fluorescent protein (GFP). GFP fused with the Tat signal sequence was secreted into the periplasm via the twin arginine transporter (Tat) in both the laboratory E. coli strain DH5alpha and the pathogenic enterotoxigenic E. coli ATCC strain 43886. Pronase-resistant fluorescence was detectable in vesicles from Tat-GFP-transformed strains, demonstrating that GFP was inside intact vesicles. Inclusion of GFP cargo increased vesicle density but did not result in morphological changes in vesicles. These studies are the first to demonstrate the incorporation of heterologously expressed outer membrane and periplasmic proteins into bacterial vesicles.
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