The ice nucleation protein (INP) of Pseudomonas syringae has gained scientific interest not only because of its pathogenicity of foliar necroses but also for its wide range of potential applications, such as in snow making, frozen food preparation, and surface-display system development. However, studies on the transport activity of INP remain lacking. In the present study, a newly identified INP-gene variant, inaQ, from a P. syringae MB03 strain was cloned. Its structural domains, signal sequences, and the hydrophilicity or hydrophobicity of each domain, were then characterized. The deduced amino acid sequence of InaQ shares similar protein domains with three P. syringae INPs, namely, InaK, InaZ, and InaV, which were identified as an N-terminal domain, a central repeating domain, and a C-terminal domain. The expression of the full-length InaQ and of various truncated variants was induced in Escherichia coli to analyze their transmembrane transport and surface-binding activities, while using the green fluorescence protein (GFP) as the fusion partner. With two transmembrane segments and a weak secretion signal, the N-terminal domain (InaQ-N) alone was found to be responsible for the transport process as well as for the binding to the outer membrane, whereas the C-terminal region was nonfunctional in protein transport. Increased membrane transport and surface-binding capacities were induced by a low isopropyl-β-D-thiogalactoside concentration (0.1 mmol/l) but not by culture temperatures (15 ºC to 37 ºC). Furthermore, by constructing the GFP-fused proteins with a single InaQ-N, as well as two and three tandemly aligned InaQ-N molecules, the transport and membrane-binding activities of these proteins were compared using Western blot analysis, immmunofluorescence microscopy, and assays of the GFP specific fluorescence intensity of subcellular fractions and flow cytometry, which showed that the increase of InaQ-N repeats resulted in a coordinated increase of the surface-immobilization efficiency. Therefore, the results of this study can serve as a molecular basis for improving the performance of INP-based cell surface-display systems.
Keywords: Escherichia coli.; Pseudomonas syringae; expression; ice nucleation protein; transport.