Peptide libraries or antigenic determinants can be displayed on the surface of bacteria through insertion in a suitable outer membrane scaffold protein. Here, we inserted the well-known antibody epitopes 3xFLAG and 2xmyc in exterior loops of the transmembrane (TM) domain of OmpA. Although these highly charged epitopes were successfully displayed on the cell surface, their levels were 10-fold reduced due to degradation. We verified that the degradation was not caused by the absence of the C-terminal domain of OmpA. In contrast, a peptide that was only moderately charged (SA-1) appeared to be stably incorporated in the outer membrane at normal protein levels. Together, these results suggest that the display efficiency is sensitive to the charge of the inserted epitopes. In addition, the high-level expression of OmpA variants with surface-displayed epitopes adversely affected growth in a strain dependent, transient manner. In a MC4100 derived strain growth was affected, whereas in MC1061 derived strains growth was unaffected. Finally, results obtained using a gel-shift assay to monitor b-barrel folding in vivo show that the insertion of small epitopes can change the heat modifiability of the OmpA TM domain from ‘aberrant’ to normal, and predict that some b-barrels will not display any significant heatmodifiability at all.
PLoS One

Verhoeven, G. S., Alexeeva, S., Dogterom, M., & den Blaauwen, T. (2009). Differential bacterial surface display of peptides by the transmembrane domain of OmpA. PLoS One, 4(Article number: 6739), 1–12. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006739