Characterization of Inner and Outer Membrane Proteins from Francisella tularensis Strains LVS and Schu S4 and Identification of Potential Subunit Vaccine Candidates


Francisella tularensis is the causative agent of tularemia and a potential bioterrorism agent. In the present study, we isolated, identified, and quantified the proteins present in the membranes of the virulent type A strain, Schu S4, and the attenuated type B strain, LVS (live vaccine strain). Spectral counting of mass spectrometric data showed enrichment for membrane proteins in both strains. Mice vaccinated with whole LVS membranes encapsulated in poly (lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) nanoparticles containing the adjuvant polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid [poly(I·C)] showed significant protection against a challenge with LVS compared to the results seen with naive mice or mice vaccinated with either membranes or poly(I·C) alone. The PLGA-encapsulated Schu S4 membranes with poly(I·C) alone did not significantly protect mice from a lethal intraperitoneal challenge with Schu S4; however, this vaccination strategy provided protection from LVS challenge. Mice that received the encapsulated Schu S4 membranes followed by a booster of LVS bacteria showed significant protection with respect to a lethal Schu S4 challenge compared to control mice. Western blot analyses of the sera from the Schu S4-vaccinated mice that received an LVS booster showed four immunoreactive bands. One of these bands from the corresponding one-dimensional (1D) SDS-PAGE experiment represented capsule. The remaining bands were excised, digested with trypsin, and analyzed using mass spectrometry. The most abundant proteins present in these immunoreactive samples were an outer membrane OmpA-like protein, FopA; the type IV pilus fiber building block protein; a hypothetical membrane protein; and lipoproteins LpnA and Lpp3. These proteins should serve as potential targets for future recombinant protein vaccination studies.