Surface modification of E. coli outer membrane vesicles with glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins: generating pro/eukaryote chimera constructs

Extracellular vesicles produced by different types of cells have recently attracted great attention, not only for their role in physiology and pathology, but also because of the emerging applications in gene therapy, vaccine production and diagnostics. Less well known than their eukaryotic counterpart, also bacteria produce extracellular vesicles, in the case of the Gram-negative E. coli the main species is termed outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). In this study, we show for the first time the functional surface modification of E. coli OMVs with glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored protein, exploiting a process variably described as molecular painting or protein engineering in eukaryotic membranes, whereby the lipid part of the GPI anchor inserts in cell membranes. By transferring the process to bacterial vesicles, we can generate a hybrid of perfectly eukaryotic proteins (in terms of folding and post-translational modifications) on a prokaryotic platform. We could demonstrate that two different GPI proteins can be displayed on the same OMV. In addition to fluorescent marker proteins, cytokines, growth factors and antigens canb be potentially transferred, generating a versatile modular platform for a novel vaccine strategy.

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