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Functional characterization and localization of a Bacillus subtilis sortase and its substrate and use of this sortase system to covalently anchor a heterologous protein to the B. subtilis cell wall for surface display.

Liew P.X., Wang C.L., Wong S.L.

Sortases catalyze the covalent anchoring of proteins to the cell surface on Gram-positive bacteria. Bioinformatic analysis suggests the presence of structural genes encoding sortases and their substrates in the Bacillus subtilis genome. In this study, a β-lactamase reporter was fused to the cell wall anchoring domain from a putative sortase substrate, YhcR. Covalent anchoring of this fusion protein to the cell wall was confirmed by using the eight-protease-deficient B. subtilis strain WB800 as the host. Inactivation of yhcS abolished the cell wall anchoring reaction. The amounts of fusion protein anchored to the cell wall were proportional to the levels of YhcS. These data demonstrate that YhcS and YhcR are the sortase and sortase substrate, respectively, in B. subtilis. Furthermore, yhcS is not essential for the survival of B. subtilis under the cultivation condition tested. YhcR fusions were distributed helically in the lateral cell wall. Interestingly, when viewed with an epifluorescence microscope, YhcS also appeared to form short helical arcs. This is the first report to illustrate such distribution of sortases in a rod-shaped bacterium. Models for the spatial distribution of both the sortase and its substrate are discussed. The amount of the reporters displayed on the surface was unambiguously quantified via a unique strategy. Under optimal conditions with the overproduction of YhcS, 47,300 YhcR fusions could be displayed per cell. Displayed reporters were biologically functional and surface accessible. Characterization of the sortase-substrate system allowed the successful development of a YhcR-based covalent surface display system. This system may have various biotechnological applications.

J. Bacteriol. 194:161-175(2012) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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