A nanobody:GFP bacterial platform that enables functional enzyme display and easy quantification of display capacity

Sofie Wendel, Emil Christian Fischer, Virginia Martinez, Susanna Seppala, Morten Nørholm

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Background: Bacterial surface display is an attractive technique for the production of cell-anchored, functional proteins and engineering of whole-cell catalysts. Although various outer membrane proteins have been used for surface display, an easy and versatile high-throughput-compatible assay for evaluating and developing surface display systems is missing.Results: Using a single domain antibody (also called nanobody) with high affinity for green fluorescent protein (GFP), we constructed a system that allows for fast, fluorescence-based detection of displayed proteins. The outer membrane hybrid protein LppOmpA and the autotransporter C-IgAP exposed the nanobody on the surface of Escherichia coli with very different efficiency. Both anchors were capable of functionally displaying the enzyme Chitinase A as a fusion with the nanobody, and this considerably increased expression levels compared to displaying the nanobody alone. We used flow cytometry to analyse display capability on single-cell versus population level and found that the signal peptide of the anchor has great effect on display efficiency.Conclusions: We have developed an inexpensive and easy read-out assay for surface display using nanobody: GFP interactions. The assay is compatible with the most common fluorescence detection methods, including multi-well plate whole-cell fluorescence detection, SDS-PAGE in-gel fluorescence, microscopy and flow cytometry. We anticipate that the platform will facilitate future in-depth studies on the mechanism of protein transport to the surface of living cells, as well as the optimisation of applications in industrial biotech.
Original languageEnglish
Article number71
JournalMicrobial Cell Factories
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016 Wendel et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated


  • Surface display
  • Nanobody
  • GFP
  • Chitinase A
  • LppOmpA
  • Autotransporter
  • Whole-cell catalysis

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