Identification of the immunodominant protein and other proteins of the Bacillus anthracis exosporium

Academic Article


  • Spores of Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, are enclosed by a prominent loose-fitting, balloon-like layer called the exosporium. Although the exosporium serves as the source of surface antigens and a primary permeability barrier of the spore, its molecular structure and function are not well characterized. In this study, we identified five major proteins in purified B. anthracis (Sterne strain) exosporia. One protein was the recently identified collagen-like glycoprotein BclA, which appears to be a structural component of the exosporium hair-like nap. Using a large panel of unique antispore monoclonal antibodies, we demonstrated that BclA is the immunodominant antigen on the B. anthracis spore surface. We also showed that the Bc1A protein and not a carbohydrate constituent directs the dominant immune response. In addition, the length of the central (GXX)n repeat region of BclA appears to be strain specific. Two other unique proteins, BxpA and BxpB, were identified. BxpA is unusually rich in Gin and Pro residues and contains several different tandem repeats, which also exhibit strain-specific variation. In addition, BxpA was found to be cleaved approximately in half. BxpB appears to be glycosylated or associated with glycosylated material and is encoded by a gene that (along with bclA) may be part of an exosporium genomic island. The other two proteins identified were alanine racemase and superoxide dismutase, both of which were reported to be associated with the surface of other Bacillus spores. Possible functions of the newly identified proteins are discussed.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 5355085
  • Author List

  • Steichen C; Chen P; Kearney JF; Turnbough CL
  • Start Page

  • 1903
  • End Page

  • 1910
  • Volume

  • 185
  • Issue

  • 6