A 38-kDa lipoprotein of Treponema pallidum (Tp38) was predicted to be a periplasmic sugar-binding protein based on its sequence similarity to the glucose/galactose-binding (MglB) protein of Escherichia coli (P. S. Becker, D. R. Akins, J. D. Radolf, and M. V. Norgard, Infect. Immun. 62:1381-1391, 1994). Inasmuch as glucose is believed to be the principal, if not sole, carbon and energy source for T. pallidum and is readily available to the spirochete during its obligate infection of humans, we hypothesized that Tp38 may serve as the organism's requisite glucose receptor. For the present study, a nonacylated recombinant form of Tp38 was coexpressed with GroES and GroEL in E. coli to facilitate the isolation of soluble, properly folded Tp38. The highly sensitive method of intrinsic fluorescence spectroscopy, predicated on the manner in which tryptophan residues reside and move within protein microenvironments, was then used to assess sugar binding to Tp38. The intrinsic fluorescence of Tp38 was essentially unaltered when it was exposed to D-mannose, D-fucose, D-ribose, L-glucose, or L-galactose, but it changed markedly in the presence of D-glucose, and to a lesser extent, D-galactose, indicating binding. The Kd values for D-glucose and D-galactose binding to Tp38 were 152.2 ± 20.73 nM and 251.2 ± 55.25 nM, respectively. Site-directed mutagenesis of Trp-145, a residue postulated to contribute to the sugar-binding pocket in a manner akin to the essential Trp-183 in E. coli MglB, abolished Tp38's conformational change in response to D-glucose. The combined data are consistent with Tp38 serving as a glucose receptor for T. pallidum. These findings potentially have important implications for syphilis pathogenesis, particularly as they may pertain to glucose-mediated chemotactic responses by T. pallidum.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology