Helicobacter pylori produces a number of proteins associated with the outer membrane, including adhesins and the vacuolating cytotoxin. These proteins are supposed to integrate into the outer membrane by β-barrel structures, characteristic of the family of autotransporter proteins. By using the SOMPES (shuttle vector-based outer membrane protein expression) system for outer membrane protein production, we were able to functionally express in H. pylori the cholera toxin B subunit genetically fused to the C-terminal VacA domain. We demonstrate that the fusion protein is translocated to the H. pylori outer membrane and that the CtxB domain is exposed on the H. pylori surface. Thus, we provide the first experimental evidence that the C-terminal β-domain of VacA can transport a foreign passenger protein to the H. pylori surface and hence acts as a functional autotransporter
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