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Stabilizing displayed proteins on vegetative Bacillus subtilis cells

Huang, Grace L., Gosschalk, Jason E., Kim, Ye Seong, Ogorzalek Loo, Rachel R., Clubb, Robert T.
Applied microbiology and biotechnology 2018 v.102 no.15 pp. 6547-6565
Bacillus subtilis, Clostridium thermocellum, Gram-positive bacteria, autolysis, biocatalysis, bioremediation, cell walls, endo-1,4-beta-glucanase, enzyme activity, fractionation, lignocellulose, models, protein engineering, proteinase inhibitors, proteinases, proteins, secretion
Microbes engineered to display heterologous proteins could be useful biotechnological tools for protein engineering, lignocellulose degradation, biocatalysis, bioremediation, and biosensing. Bacillus subtilis is a promising host to display proteins, as this model Gram-positive bacterium is genetically tractable and already used industrially to produce enzymes. To gain insight into the factors that affect displayed protein stability and copy number, we systematically compared the ability of different protease-deficient B. subtilis strains (WB800, BRB07, BRB08, and BRB14) to display a Cel8A-LysM reporter protein in which the Clostridium thermocellum Cel8A endoglucanase is fused to LysM cell wall binding modules. Whole-cell cellulase measurements and fractionation experiments demonstrate that genetically eliminating extracytoplasmic bacterial proteases improves Cel8A-LysM display levels. However, upon entering stationary phase, for all protease-deficient strains, the amount of displayed reporter dramatically decreases, presumably as a result of cellular autolysis. This problem can be partially overcome by adding chemical protease inhibitors, which significantly increase protein display levels. We conclude that strain BRB08 is well suited for stably displaying our reporter protein, as genetic removal of its extracellular and cell wall-associated proteases leads to the highest levels of surface-accumulated Cel8A-LysM without causing secretion stress or impairing growth. A two-step procedure is presented that enables the construction of enzyme-coated vegetative B. subtilis cells that retain stable cell-associated enzyme activity for nearly 3 days. The results of this work could aid the development of whole-cell display systems that have useful biotechnological applications.