The 47-kDa major lipoprotein immunogen of Treponema pallidum is a penicillin-binding protein with carboxypeptidase activity

Linda M. Weigel, Justin D. Radolf, Michael V. Norgard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

The recent model of Treponema pallidum molecular architecture proposes that the vast majority of the bacterium's integral membrane proteins are lipoprotein immunogens anchored in the cytoplasmic membrane while the outer membrane contains only a limited number of surface-exposed transmembrane proteins. This unique model explains, in part, the organism's remarkable ability to evade host immune defenses and establish persistent infection. Our strategy for refining this model involves demonstrating that the physiological functions of treponemal membrane proteins are consistent with their proposed cellular locations. In this study, we used an ampicillin- digoxigenin conjugate to demonstrate by chemiluminescence that the 47-kDa lipoprotein immunogen of T. pallidum (Tpp47) is a penicillin-binding protein. Reexamination of the Tpp47 primary sequence revealed the three amino acid motifs characteristic of penicillin-binding proteins. A recombinant, nonlipidated, soluble form of Tpp47 was used to demonstrate that Tpp47 is a zinc-dependent carboxypeptidase. Escherichia coli expressing Tpp47 was characterized by cell wall abnormalities consistent with altered peptidoglycan biosynthesis. Though the inability to cultivate T. pallidum in vitro and the lack of genetic exchange systems continue to impede treponemal research, this study advances strategies for utilizing E. coli molecular genetics as a means of elucidating the complex relationships between syphilis pathogenesis and T. pallidum membrane biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11611-11615
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume91
Issue number24
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 22 1994

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