Production of Outer Membrane Vesicles by the Plague Pathogen <i>Yersinia pestis</i>

<div><p>Many Gram-negative bacteria produce outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) during cell growth and division, and some bacterial pathogens deliver virulence factors to the host via the release of OMVs during infection. Here we show that <i>Yersinia pestis</i>, the causative agent of the disease plague, produces and releases native OMVs under physiological conditions. These OMVs, approximately 100 nm in diameter, contain multiple virulence-associated outer membrane proteins including the adhesin Ail, the F1 outer fimbrial antigen, and the protease Pla. We found that OMVs released by <i>Y. pestis</i> contain catalytically active Pla that is competent for plasminogen activation and α2-antiplasmin degradation. The abundance of OMV-associated proteins released by <i>Y. pestis</i> is significantly elevated at 37°C compared to 26°C and is increased in response to membrane stress and mutations in RseA, Hfq, and the major Braun lipoprotein (Lpp). In addition, we show that <i>Y. pestis</i> OMVs are able to bind to components of the extracellular matrix such as fibronectin and laminin. These data suggest that <i>Y. pestis</i> may produce OMVs during mammalian infection and we propose that dispersal of Pla via OMV release may influence the outcome of infection through interactions with Pla substrates such as plasminogen and Fas ligand.</p></div>