46 Scopus citations


Outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) are spherical structures derived from the outer membranes (OMs) of Gram-negative bacteria. Bacteroides spp. are prominent components of the human gut microbiota, and OMVs produced by these species are proposed to play key roles in gut homeostasis. OMV biogenesis in Bacteroides is a poorly understood process. Here, we revisited the protein composition of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron OMVs by mass spectrometry. We confirmed that OMVs produced by this organism contain large quantities of glycosidases and proteases, with most of them being lipoproteins. We found that most of these OMV-enriched lipoproteins are encoded by polysaccharide utilization loci (PULs), such as the sus operon. We examined the subcellular locations of the components of the Sus system and found a split localization; the alpha-amylase SusG is highly enriched in OMVs, while the oligosaccharide importer SusC remains mostly in the OM. We found that all OMV-enriched lipoproteins possess a lipoprotein export sequence (LES), and we show that this signal mediates translocation of SusG from the periplasmic face of the OM toward the extracellular milieu. Mutations in the LES motif caused defects in surface exposure and recruitment of SusG into OMVs. These experiments link, for the first time, surface exposure to recruitment of proteins into OMVs. We also show that surface-exposed SusG in OMVs is active and rescues the growth of bacterial cells incapable of growing on starch as the only carbon source. Our results support the role of OMVs as "public goods" that can be utilized by other organisms with different metabolic capabilities. IMPORTANCE Species from the Bacteroides genus are predominant members of the human gut microbiota. OMVs in Bacteroides have been shown to be important for the homeostasis of complex host-commensal relationships, mainly involving immune tolerance and protection from disease. OMVs carry many enzymatic activities involved in the cleavage of complex polysaccharides and have been proposed as public goods that can provide growth to other bacterial species by release of polysaccharide breakdown products into the gut lumen. This work shows that the presence of a negatively charged rich amino acid motif (LES) is required for efficient packing of the surface-exposed alpha-amylase SusG into OMVs. Our findings strongly suggest that surface exposure is coupled to packing of Bacteroides lipoproteins into OMVs. This is the first step in the generation of tailor-made probiotic interventions that can exploit LES-related sequences to generate Bacteroides strains displaying proteins of interest in OMVs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number55918
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Bacteroides
  • Hydrolases
  • Lipoproteins
  • OMV
  • Vesicles


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