Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research

Expression and extracellular release of a functional anti-trypanosome Nanobody® in Sodalis glossinidius, a bacterial symbiont of the tsetse fly

Linda De Vooght12, Guy Caljon234, Benoît Stijlemans34, Patrick De Baetselier34, Marc Coosemans1 and Jan Van Den Abbeele2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Unit of Medical Entomology, Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

2 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Unit of Veterinary Protozoology, Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

3 Unit of Cellular and Molecular Immunology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

4 Laboratory of Myeloid Cell Immunology, VIB, Brussels, Belgium

For all author emails, please log on.

Microbial Cell Factories 2012, 11:23  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-23

Published: 15 February 2012



Sodalis glossinidius, a gram-negative bacterial endosymbiont of the tsetse fly, has been proposed as a potential in vivo drug delivery vehicle to control trypanosome parasite development in the fly, an approach known as paratransgenesis. Despite this interest of S. glossinidius as a paratransgenic platform organism in tsetse flies, few potential effector molecules have been identified so far and to date none of these molecules have been successfully expressed in this bacterium.


In this study, S. glossinidius was transformed to express a single domain antibody, (Nanobody®) Nb_An33, that efficiently targets conserved cryptic epitopes of the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) of the parasite Trypanosoma brucei. Next, we analyzed the capability of two predicted secretion signals to direct the extracellular delivery of significant levels of active Nb_An33. We show that the pelB leader peptide was successful in directing the export of fully functional Nb_An33 to the periplasm of S. glossinidius resulting in significant levels of extracellular release. Finally, S. glossinidius expressing pelBNb_An33 exhibited no significant reduction in terms of fitness, determined by in vitro growth kinetics, compared to the wild-type strain.


These data are the first demonstration of the expression and extracellular release of functional trypanosome-interfering Nanobodies® in S. glossinidius. Furthermore, Sodalis strains that efficiently released the effector protein were not affected in their growth, suggesting that they may be competitive with endogenous microbiota in the midgut environment of the tsetse fly. Collectively, these data reinforce the notion for the potential of S. glossinidius to be developed into a paratransgenic platform organism.

Sodalis glossinidius; Symbiont; Glossina; Paratransgenesis; Expression; Nanobody; Functional