Characterization of four outer membrane proteins that play a role in utilization of starch by Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron.
Results of earlier work had suggested that utilization of polysaccharides by Bacteroides spp. did not proceed via breakdown by extracellular polysaccharide-degrading enzymes. Rather, it appeared that the polysaccharide was first bound to a putative outer membrane receptor complex and then translocated into the periplasm, where the degradative enzymes were located. In a recent article, we reported the cloning and sequencing of susC, a gene from Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron that encoded a 115-kDa outer membrane protein. SusC protein proved to be essential for utilization not only of starch but also of intermediate-sized maltooligosaccharides (maltose to maltoheptaose). In this paper, we report the sequencing of a 7-kbp region of the B. thetaiotaomicron chromosome that lies immediately downstream of susC. We found four genes in this region (susD, susE, susF, and susG). Transcription of these genes was maltose inducible, and the genes appeared to be part of the same operon as susC. Western blot (immunoblot) analysis using antisera raised against proteins encoded by each of the four genes showed that all four were outer membrane proteins. Protein database searches revealed that SusE had limited similarity to a glucanohydrolase from Clostridium acetobutylicum and SusG had high similarity to amylases from a variety of sources. SusD and SusF had no significant similarity to any proteins in the databases. Results of 14C-starch binding assays suggested that SusD makes a major contribution to binding. SusE and SusF also appear to contribute to binding but not to the same extent as SusD. SusG is essential for growth on starch but appears to contribute little to starch binding. Our results demonstrate that the binding of starch to the B. thetaiotaomicron surface involves at least four outer membrane proteins (SusC, SusD, SusE, and SusF), which may form a surface receptor complex. The role of SusG in binding is still unclear.