Immunization with outer membrane vesicles displaying conserved surface polysaccharide antigen elicits broadly antimicrobial antibodies

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Apr 3;115(14):E3106-E3115. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1718341115. Epub 2018 Mar 19.


Many microbial pathogens produce a β-(1→6)-linked poly-N-acetyl-d-glucosamine (PNAG) surface capsule, including bacterial, fungal, and protozoan cells. Broadly protective immune responses to this single conserved polysaccharide antigen in animals are possible but only when a deacetylated poly-N-acetyl-d-glucosamine (dPNAG; <30% acetate) glycoform is administered as a conjugate to a carrier protein. Unfortunately, conventional methods for natural extraction or chemical synthesis of dPNAG and its subsequent conjugation to protein carriers can be technically demanding and expensive. Here, we describe an alternative strategy for creating broadly protective vaccine candidates that involved coordinating recombinant poly-N-acetyl-d-glucosamine (rPNAG) biosynthesis with outer membrane vesicle (OMV) formation in laboratory strains of Escherichia coli The glycosylated outer membrane vesicles (glycOMVs) released by these engineered bacteria were decorated with the PNAG glycopolymer and induced high titers of PNAG-specific IgG antibodies after immunization in mice. When a Staphylococcus aureus enzyme responsible for PNAG deacetylation was additionally expressed in these cells, glycOMVs were generated that elicited antibodies to both highly acetylated PNAG (∼95-100% acetate) and a chemically deacetylated dPNAG derivative (∼15% acetate). These antibodies mediated efficient in vitro killing of two distinct PNAG-positive bacterial species, namely S. aureus and Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica, and mice immunized with PNAG-containing glycOMVs developed protective immunity against these unrelated pathogens. Collectively, our results reveal the potential of glycOMVs for targeting this conserved polysaccharide antigen and engendering protective immunity against the broad range of pathogens that produce surface PNAG.

Keywords: glycoconjugate vaccine; immunization; infectious disease; oligosaccharide; synthetic biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology*
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control*
  • Bacterial Vaccines / immunology
  • Bacterial Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Immunization / methods*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Transport Vesicles / immunology*
  • Vaccines, Conjugate / immunology
  • Vaccines, Conjugate / therapeutic use
  • beta-Glucans / metabolism


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Conjugate
  • beta-Glucans
  • poly-N-acetyl-1-6-glucosamine