Secretion of M2e: HBc fusion protein by Lactobacillus casei using Cwh signal peptide

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The ability to serve as a delivery vehicle for various interesting biomolecules makes lactic acid bacteria (LAB) very useful in several applications. In the medical field, recombinant LAB expressing pathogenic antigens at different cellular locations have been used to elicit both mucosal and systemic immune responses. Expression–secretion vectors (ESVs) with a signal peptide (SP) are pivotal for protein expression and secretion. In this study, the genome sequence of Lactobacillus casei ATCC334 was explored for new SPs using bioinformatics tools. Three new SPs of the proteins Cwh, SurA and SP6565 were identified and used to construct an ESV based on our Escherichia coli–L. casei shuttle vector, pRCEID-LC13.9. Functional testing of these constructs with the green fluorescence protein (GFP) gene showed that they could secrete the GFP. The construct with CwhSP showed the highest GFP secretion. Consequently, CwhSP was selected to develop an ESV construct carrying a synthetic gene encoding the extracellular domain of the matrix 2 protein fused with the hepatitis B core antigen (M2e:HBc). This ESV was shown to efficiently express and secrete the M2e:HBc fusion protein. The identified SPs and the developed ESVs can be exploited for expression and secretion of homologous and heterologous proteins in L. casei.

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