Gilkes, Jenna Marion

Publications (1)

The First Purification of Functional Proteins from the Unculturable, Genome-Reduced, Bottlenecked α-Proteobacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’

Gilkes et al. (2019). Phytopathology® 109 (7)
“Liberibacter solanacearum”
Agronomy and Crop Science Plant Science
‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ is an unculturable α-proteobacterium that is the causal agent of zebra chip disease of potato—a major problem in potato-growing areas, because it affects growth and yield. Developing effective treatments for ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ has been hampered by the difficulty in functionally characterizing the proteins of this organism, largely because they are not easily expressed and purified in standard expression systems. ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ has a reduced genome and its proteins are predicted to be prone to instability and aggregation. Among intracellular-dwelling bacteria, chaperone proteins are conserved and overexpressed to buffer against problems in protein folding. We mimicked this approach for expressing and purifying ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ proteins in Escherichia coli by coexpressing them with chaperones. Neither of the representative ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ enzymes, dihydrodipicolinate synthase (key in lysine biosynthesis) and pyruvate kinase (involved in glycolysis), were overexpressed in standard E. coli expression plasmids or strains. However, soluble dihydrodipicolinate synthase was successfully coexpressed with GroEL/GroES, while soluble pyruvate kinase was successfully coexpressed with either GroEL/GroES, dnaK/dnaJ/grpE, or a trigger factor. Both enzymes, believed to be key proteins for the organism, were purified by a combination of affinity chromatography and size-exclusion chromatography. Additionally, both ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ enzymes are active and have the canonical tetrameric oligomeric structure in solution, consistent with other bacterial orthologs. This is the first study to successfully isolate and functionally characterize proteins from ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’. Thus, we provide a general strategy for characterizing its proteins, enabling new research and drug discovery programs to study and manage the pathogenicity of the organism.