Bacillus anthracis (Ames strain) chromosome-derived open reading frames (ORFs), predicted to code for surface exposed or virulence related proteins, were selected as B. anthracis-specific vaccine candidates by a multistep computational screen of the entire draft chromosome sequence (February 2001 version, 460 contigs, The Institute for Genomic Research, Rockville, Md.). The selection procedure combined preliminary annotation (sequence similarity searches and domain assignments), prediction of cellular localization, taxonomical and functional screen and additional filtering criteria (size, number of paralogs). The reductive strategy, combined with manual curation, resulted in selection of 240 candidate ORFs encoding proteins with putative known function, as well as 280 proteins of unknown function. Proteomic analysis of two-dimensional gels of a B. anthracis membrane fraction, verified the expression of some gene products. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time-of-flight mass spectrometry analyses allowed identification of 38 spots cross-reacting with sera from B. anthracis immunized animals. These spots were found to represent eight in vivo immunogens, comprising of EA1, Sap, and 6 proteins whose expression and immunogenicity was not reported before. Five of these 8 immunogens were preselected by the bioinformatic analysis (EA1, Sap, 2 novel SLH proteins and peroxiredoxin/AhpC), as vaccine candidates. This study demonstrates that a combination of the bioinformatic and proteomic strategies may be useful in promoting the development of next generation anthrax vaccine.
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