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Mycoplasma gallisepticum is a major poultry pathogen and causes severe economic loss to the poultry industry. In mycoplasmas lipoproteins are abundant on the membrane surface and play a critical role in interactions with the host, but tools for exploring their molecular biology are limited.
In this study we examined whether the alkaline phosphatase gene (phoA ) from Escherichia coli could be used as a reporter in mycoplasmas. The promoter region from the gene for elongation factor Tu (ltuf) and the signal and acylation sequences from the vlhA 1.1 gene, both from Mycoplasma gallisepticum , together with the coding region of phoA , were assembled in the transposon-containing plasmid pISM2062.2 (pTAP) to enable expression of alkaline phosphatase (AP) as a recombinant lipoprotein. The transposon was used to transform M. gallisepticum strain S6. As a control, a plasmid containing a similar construct, but lacking the signal and acylation sequences, was also produced (pTP) and also introduced into M. gallisepticum . Using a colorimetric substrate for detection of alkaline phosphatase activity, it was possible to detect transformed M. gallisepticum . The level of transcription of phoA in organisms transformed with pTP was lower than in those transformed with pTAP, and alkaline phosphatase was not detected by immunoblotting or enzymatic assays in pTP transformants, eventhough alkaline phosphatase expression could be readily detected by both assays in pTAP transformants. Alkaline phosphatase was shown to be located in the hydrophobic fraction of transformed mycoplasmas following Triton X-114 partitioning and in the membrane fraction after differential fractionation. Trypsin proteolysis confirmed its surface exposure. The inclusion of the VlhA lipoprotein signal sequence in pTAP enabled translocation of PhoA and acylation of the amino terminal cysteine moiety, as confirmed by the effect of treatment with globomycin and radiolabelling studies with [14C]palmitate. PhoA could be identified by mass-spectrometry after separation by two-dimensional electrophoresis.
This is the first study to express PhoA as a lipoprotein in mycoplasmas. The pTAP plasmid will facilitate investigations of lipoproteins and protein translocation across the cell membrane in mycoplasmas, and the ease of detection of these transformants makes this vector system suitable for the simultaneous screening and detection of cloned genes expressed as membrane proteins in mycoplasmas.