The omp2 gene locus of Brucella abortus encodes two homologous outer membrane proteins with properties characteristic of bacterial porins.


In Brucella abortus, a gene encoding a major cell envelope protein, omp2, is duplicated within a short segment of the large chromosomal DNA. Although both genes contain open reading frames, encoding proteins of high identity, expression from only one, omp2b, has been detected in laboratory-grown B. abortus. In the present study, we wished to determine whether omp2b encodes the previously studied Brucella porin and to characterize the omp2a gene product. Experiments were performed with Escherichia coli transformants expressing either omp2a or omp2b. Our results indicated that both gene products localized to the outer membrane of E. coli. Initial rates of transport of [14C]maltose and growth rates in the presence of maltodextrins of defined size indicated an increased hydrophilic permeability of transformants expressing omp2a. These cells were also shown to grow on maltotetraose, a molecule with a molecular mass of 667 Da. Activity consistent with the formation of pores could not be demonstrated in transformants expressing omp2b. However, Omp2b formed oligomers resistant to heat denaturation up to 70 degrees C in sodium dodecyl sulfate buffer, a property characteristic of bacterial porins. Overall, these results suggest that the omp2a gene product has pore-forming activity and that the omp2b gene encodes the previously characterized Brucella porin.

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