A bacterial virulence factor with a dual role as an adhesin and a solute-binding protein: the crystal structure at 1.5 A resolution of the PEB1a protein from the food-borne human pathogen Campylobacter jejuni

J Mol Biol. 2007 Sep 7;372(1):160-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2007.06.041. Epub 2007 Jun 19.


The PEB1a protein is an antigenic factor exposed on the surface of the food-borne human pathogen Campylobacter jejuni, which has a major role in adherence and host colonisation. PEB1a is also the periplasmic binding protein component of an aspartate/glutamate ABC transporter essential for optimal microaerobic growth on these dicarboxylic amino acids. Here, we report the crystal structure of PEB1a at 1.5 A resolution. The protein has a typical two-domain alpha/beta structure, characteristic of periplasmic extracytoplasmic solute receptors and a chain topology related to the type II subfamily. An aspartate ligand, clearly defined by electron density in the interdomain cleft, forms extensive polar interactions with the protein, the majority of which are made with the larger domain. Arg89 and Asp174 form ion-pairing interactions with the main chain alpha-carboxyl and alpha-amino-groups, respectively, of the ligand, while Arg67, Thr82, Lys19 and Tyr156 co-ordinate the ligand side-chain carboxyl group. Lys19 and Arg67 line a positively charged groove, which favours binding of Asp over the neutral Asn. The ligand-binding cleft is of sufficient depth to accommodate a glutamate. This is the first structure of an ABC-type aspartate-binding protein, and explains the high affinity of the protein for aspartate and glutamate, and its much weaker binding of asparagine and glutamine. Stopped-flow fluorescence spectroscopy indicates a simple bimolecular mechanism of ligand binding, with high association rate constants. Sequence alignments and phylogenetic analyses revealed PEB1a homologues in some Gram-positive bacteria. The alignments suggest a more distant homology with GltI from Escherichia coli, a known glutamate and aspartate-binding protein, but Lys19 and Tyr156 are not conserved in GltI. Our results provide a structural basis for understanding both the solute transport and adhesin/virulence functions of PEB1a.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antigens, Bacterial / chemistry*
  • Antigens, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Antigens, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Binding Sites
  • Campylobacter jejuni*
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Isoforms / chemistry
  • Protein Isoforms / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Virulence Factors / chemistry
  • Virulence Factors / physiology


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Carrier Proteins
  • PEB1 protein, Campylobacter
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Virulence Factors
  • Aspartic Acid

Associated data

  • PDB/2V25