We have identified a gene, which is closely linked to the locus associated with mannose-fucose-resistant haemagglutination. VlpA is an outer-membrane protein which can be labelled with [H]palmitate and whose processing is globomycin-sensitive, suggesting that it is a lipoprotein. Homology searches revealed that VlpA belongs to the group of lipocalins of the α-microglobulin superfamily which function as small hydrophobic molecule transporters, and is the first identified bacterial member of this group. Multiple copies of this gene are present in O1 and O139 and Southern hybridization reveals a biotype-specific pattern of fragment sizes. Construction of strains capable of hyperproducing VlpA suggested that it is able to bind haemin with low affinity but this may be due to a simple hydrophobic interaction. Attempts to construct specific mutants in have been unsuccessful, presumably because of the multiple copies of genes and their linkage to the VCR element.


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