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1.  Inner core biosynthesis of lipooligosaccharide (LOS) in Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B: identification and role in LOS assembly of the alpha1,2 N-acetylglucosamine transferase (RfaK). 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(5):1265-1273.
A lipooligosaccharide (LOS) mutant of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B strain NMB (immunotype L3,7,9) was identified in a Tn916 (tetM) mutant bank by loss of reactivity with monoclonal antibody 3F11, which recognizes the terminal Galbeta1-->4GlcNAc epitope in the lacto-N-neotetraose moiety of the wild-type LOS structure. The mutant, designated 559, was found to express a truncated LOS of 3.0 kDa. Southern and PCR analyses demonstrated that there was a single intact Tn916 insertion (class I) in the mutant 559 chromosome. Linkage of the LOS phenotype and the Tn916 insertion was confirmed by transformation of the wild-type parent. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the region surrounding the transposition site revealed a 1,065-bp open reading frame (ORF). A homology search of the GenBank/EMBL database revealed that the amino acid sequence of this ORF had 46.8% similarity and 21.2% identity with the alpha1,2 N-acetylglucosamine transferase (RfaK) from Salmonella typhimurium. Glycosyl composition and linkage analysis of the LOS produced by mutant 559 revealed that the lacto-N-neotetraose group which is attached to heptose I (HepI) and the N-acetylglucosamine and glucose residues that are attached to HepII in the inner core of the parental LOS were absent. These analyses also showed that the HepII residue in both the parent and the mutant LOS molecules was phosphorylated, presumably by a phosphoethanolamine substituent. The insertion of nonpolar and polar antibiotic resistance cartridges into the parental rfaK gene resulted in the expression of LOS with the same mobility as that produced by mutant 559. This result indicated that the inability to add the lacto-N-neotetraose group to the 559 LOS is not due to a polar effect on a gene(s) downstream of rfaK. Our data indicate that we have identified the meningococcal alpha1,2 N-acetylglucosamine transferase responsible for the addition of N-acetylglucosamine to HepII. We propose that the lack of alpha-chain extension from HepI in the LOS of mutant 559 may be due to structural constraints imposed by the incomplete biosynthesis of the LOS inner core.
PMCID: PMC177798  PMID: 8631701
2.  Immunotype epitopes of Neisseria meningitidis lipooligosaccharide types 1 through 8. 
Infection and Immunity  1987;55(7):1652-1656.
Lipooligosaccharides (LOS) of the eight immunotypes found in serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis were purified from their prototype strains grown in tryptic soy broth. Rabbit antisera to these LOS were prepared. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis followed by silver staining revealed that most of the LOS antigens contained two major components; the larger components had apparent molecular weights (Mrs) in the range of 4,800 +/- 300, and the smaller components had an apparent Mr of 4,300. Immunoblot analysis showed that the larger major component of an LOS, in general, was much more immunogenic because the rabbits produced antibodies exclusively or primarily to this component even though the LOS immunogen contained both large and small major components. Antibodies to the smaller 4,300-Mr components were infrequently observed but, when present, were cross-reactive with the same-size components of all heterologous LOS. Hence, the immunotype epitopes reside in the larger major components of all immunotypes except type 5, in which a smaller major component having an apparent Mr of 4,400 carries the epitope. Rabbit antisera to types 1, 5, and 6 were immunotype specific. Antisera to other types had cross-reactivities with some heterologous LOS, and the larger components, but not the 4,300-Mr components, of the LOS were primarily responsible for the cross-reactivities. This finding suggests that the larger components of cross-reactive LOS have a similar structure in addition to their type-specific sugar moieties. The LOS of N. meningitidis M986, a strain used for the production of a serotype 2a vaccine, was found to contain the immunotype 7 epitope.
PMCID: PMC260573  PMID: 2439458
3.  Preparation, characterization, and immunogenicity of meningococcal lipooligosaccharide-derived oligosaccharide-protein conjugates. 
Infection and Immunity  1993;61(5):1873-1880.
A method was developed for coupling carboxylic acid-containing oligosaccharides (OS) to proteins. An OS was isolated from Neisseria meningitidis group A strain A1 lipooligosaccharide (LOS). This LOS has no human glycolipid-like lacto-N-neotetraose structure and contains multiple immunotypes, including L8, found in group B and C strains. The carboxylic acid at 2-keto-3-deoxyoctulosonic acid of the OS was linked through adipic acid dihydrazide to tetanus toxoid. The molar ratio of the OS to tetanus toxoid in three conjugates ranged from 11:1 to 19:1. The antigenicity of the OS was conserved in these conjugates, as measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and an inhibition ELISA with polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies to A1 LOS. These conjugates induced immunoglobulin G antibodies to A1 LOS in mice and rabbits. The immunogenicity of the conjugates in rabbits was enhanced by use of monophosphoryl lipid A plus trehalose dimycolate as an adjuvant. The resulting rabbit antisera cross-reacted with most of 12 prototype LOSs and with LOSs from two group B disease strains, 44/76 and BB431, in an ELISA and in Western blotting (immunoblotting), which revealed a 3.6-kDa reactive band in these LOSs. The rabbit antisera showed bactericidal activity against homologous strain A1 and heterologous strains 44/76 and BB431. These results indicate that conjugates derived from A1 LOS can induce antibodies against many LOS immunotypes from different organism serogroups, including group B. OS-protein conjugates derived from meningococcal LOSs may therefore be candidate vaccines to prevent meningitis caused by meningococci.
PMCID: PMC280778  PMID: 8478076
4.  Serological diversity and chemical structures of Campylobacter jejuni low-molecular-weight lipopolysaccharides. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1992;174(4):1324-1332.
Low-Mr lipopolysaccharides (LPS) of Campylobacter jejuni reference strains for serotypes O:1, O:4, O:23, and O:36 were examined through the liberation of core oligosaccharides by mild acid cleavage of the ketosidic linkage of 3-deoxy-D-manno-2-octulosonic acid residues to the lipid A moiety. The liberated oligosaccharides were examined for chemical structure by compositional analysis and methylated linkage analysis in conjunction with fast atom bombardment-mass spectrometry of permethylated oligosaccharide derivatives. The results showed (i) that the LPS contained short oligosaccharide chains of branched nonrepetitive structure, to many of which N-acetylneuraminic acid residues remained attached by 2----3 linkages to 4-linked D-galactose residues in the core structure; (ii) that serotypical differences, which are not readily defined through qualitatively similar compositions, are clearly reflected in variations in linkage types and sequences of sugar residues in the outer core attached to an inner region of invariable structure; but (iii) that the presence or absence of NeuAc residues does not appear to be a basis for serotypical differences. The results also showed that oligosaccharide chains from LPS of serotypes O:1 and O:4 are distinctly different and are distinct again from those of the cross-reacting serotypes O:23 and O:36, between whose core oligosaccharide chains no differences were found. It is concluded that the structurally variable low-Mr LPS from C. jejuni show greater similarities to the lipooligosaccharides from Neisseria spp. than to the highly conserved core regions of Salmonella species. Those strains (serotypes O:23 and O:36) which also furnish high-Mr LPS are unique among gram-negative bacteria in possessing both low-Mr molecules of the Neisseria lipooligosaccharide type and high-Mr LPS of the Salmonella smooth type.
PMCID: PMC206428  PMID: 1370951
5.  Production and characterization of monoclonal antibodies to type 8 lipooligosaccharide of Neisseria meningitidis. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1992;30(8):2047-2053.
Eight monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to lipooligosaccharides (LOSs) of Neisseria meningitidis were produced by immunizing mice with purified LOS from group A meningococcal strain A1. The specificities of the MAbs were examined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), immunodot assay, and ELISA inhibition by using the homologous A1 LOS, 12 immunotype LOSs of N. meningitidis (L1 through L12), and LOSs or lipopolysaccharides from other gram-negative bacteria. Two of the MAbs, 4385G7 (immunoglobulin G2b [IgG2b]) and 4387A5 (IgG2a), had the strongest reactivities with the homologous A1 LOS, moderate reactivities with the M978 (L8) LOS, but no reactivity with other LOSs. The other six MAbs (4 IgM and 2 IgG3) reacted with the A1 LOS and with several or many of the 12 LOSs. ELISA inhibition at 50% showed that the inhibitory activities of the LOSs from strains A1 and BB431 (a group B strain) to the specific MAb 4387A5 were about 10 to 20 times greater than that of the M978 (L8) LOS. When compared with MAb 2-1-L8 (L8) by Western blot (immunoblot) analysis and ELISA inhibition, the two specific MAbs recognized a different epitope in the 3.6-kDa LOSs of strains A1 and BB431. We propose that the new epitope is L8a, since the MAbs also reacted with the M978 (L8) LOS. The expression of the L8a epitope in the A1 LOS requires a few monosaccharide residues in its oligosaccharide moiety, and the fatty acid residues in its lipid A moiety also play a role. In a whole-cell ELISA, the two specific MAbs bound specifically to the homologous strain A1 and the L8 prototype strain M978 but not to any other LOS prototype strains. These results suggest that the two specific MAbs can be used for LOS typing of N. meningitidis.
PMCID: PMC265440  PMID: 1380009
6.  Conservation and Accessibility of an Inner Core Lipopolysaccharide Epitope of Neisseria meningitidis 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(10):5417-5426.
We investigated the conservation and antibody accessibility of inner core epitopes of Neisseria meningitidis lipopolysaccharide (LPS) because of their potential as vaccine candidates. An immunoglobulin G3 murine monoclonal antibody (MAb), designated MAb B5, was obtained by immunizing mice with a galE mutant of N. meningitidis H44/76 (B.15.P1.7,16 immunotype L3). We have shown that MAb B5 can bind to the core LPS of wild-type encapsulated MC58 (B.15.P1.7,16 immunotype L3) organisms in vitro and ex vivo. An inner core structure recognized by MAb B5 is conserved and accessible in 26 of 34 (76%) of group B and 78 of 112 (70%) of groups A, C, W, X, Y, and Z strains. N. meningitidis strains which possess this epitope are immunotypes in which phosphoethanolamine (PEtn) is linked to the 3-position of the β-chain heptose (HepII) of the inner core. In contrast, N. meningitidis strains lacking reactivity with MAb B5 have an alternative core structure in which PEtn is linked to an exocyclic position (i.e., position 6 or 7) of HepII (immunotypes L2, L4, and L6) or is absent (immunotype L5). We conclude that MAb B5 defines one or more of the major inner core glycoforms of N. meningitidis LPS. These findings support the possibility that immunogens capable of eliciting functional antibodies specific to inner core structures could be the basis of a vaccine against invasive infections caused by N. meningitidis.
PMCID: PMC96899  PMID: 10496924
7.  Influence of the Length of the Lipooligosaccharide α Chain on Its Sialylation in Neisseria meningitidis  
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(1):407-411.
The sialylation of lipooligosaccharide (LOS) in Neisseria meningitidis plays a role in the resistance of the organism to killing by normal human serum. The length of the α chain extending out from the heptose I [Hep (I)] moiety of LOS influenced sialylation of N. meningitidis LOS in vitro and in vivo. The α chain required a terminal Gal and a trisaccharide or longer oligosaccharide to serve as an acceptor for sialylation. The disaccharide lactose (Galβ1-4Glc) in the α chain of immunotype L8 LOS could not function as an acceptor for the sialyltransferase, probably due to steric hindrance imposed by the neighboring Hep (II) with phosphorylethanolamine and another group attached.
PMCID: PMC127647  PMID: 11748209
8.  Meningococcal Genetic Variation Mechanisms Viewed through Comparative Analysis of Serogroup C Strain FAM18 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(2):e23.
The bacterium Neisseria meningitidis is commonly found harmlessly colonising the mucosal surfaces of the human nasopharynx. Occasionally strains can invade host tissues causing septicaemia and meningitis, making the bacterium a major cause of morbidity and mortality in both the developed and developing world. The species is known to be diverse in many ways, as a product of its natural transformability and of a range of recombination and mutation-based systems. Previous work on pathogenic Neisseria has identified several mechanisms for the generation of diversity of surface structures, including phase variation based on slippage-like mechanisms and sequence conversion of expressed genes using information from silent loci. Comparison of the genome sequences of two N. meningitidis strains, serogroup B MC58 and serogroup A Z2491, suggested further mechanisms of variation, including C-terminal exchange in specific genes and enhanced localised recombination and variation related to repeat arrays. We have sequenced the genome of N. meningitidis strain FAM18, a representative of the ST-11/ET-37 complex, providing the first genome sequence for the disease-causing serogroup C meningococci; it has 1,976 predicted genes, of which 60 do not have orthologues in the previously sequenced serogroup A or B strains. Through genome comparison with Z2491 and MC58 we have further characterised specific mechanisms of genetic variation in N. meningitidis, describing specialised loci for generation of cell surface protein variants and measuring the association between noncoding repeat arrays and sequence variation in flanking genes. Here we provide a detailed view of novel genetic diversification mechanisms in N. meningitidis. Our analysis provides evidence for the hypothesis that the noncoding repeat arrays in neisserial genomes (neisserial intergenic mosaic elements) provide a crucial mechanism for the generation of surface antigen variants. Such variation will have an impact on the interaction with the host tissues, and understanding these mechanisms is important to aid our understanding of the intimate and complex relationship between the human nasopharynx and the meningococcus.
Author Summary
Human surface tissues, including the skin and gut lining, are host to many different species of bacteria. N. meningitidis is a species of bacteria that is only found in humans where it is able to colonise mucosal surfaces of the nasopharynx (nose and throat). This association is normally harmless and at any one time around 15% of the population are carriers. Some strains of N. meningitidis can cause disease by invading the host tissue leading to septicaemia or meningitis. We aim to gain understanding of the mechanisms by which these bacteria cause disease by studying and comparing genomes from different strains. Here we describe specific genes and associated repetitive DNA sequences that are involved in variation of the bacterial cell surface. The repeat sequences encourage the swapping of genes that code for variant copies of cell surface proteins. The resulting variation of the bacterial cell surface appears to be important in the close interaction between host and bacteria and the potential for disease.
PMCID: PMC1797815  PMID: 17305430
9.  Genotypic and Phenotypic Modifications of Neisseria meningitidis after an Accidental Human Passage 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17145.
A scientist in our laboratory was accidentally infected while working with Z5463, a Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A strain. She developed severe symptoms (fever, meningism, purpuric lesions) that fortunately evolved with antibiotic treatment to complete recovery. Pulse-field gel electrophoresis confirmed that the isolate obtained from the blood culture (Z5463BC) was identical to Z5463, more precisely to a fourth subculture of this strain used the week before the contamination (Z5463PI). In order to get some insights into genomic modifications that can occur in vivo, we sequenced these three isolates. All the strains contained a mutated mutS allele and therefore displayed an hypermutator phenotype, consistent with the high number of mutations (SNP, Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) detected in the three strains. By comparing the number of SNP in all three isolates and knowing the number of passages between Z5463 and Z5463PI, we concluded that around 25 bacterial divisions occurred in the human body. As expected, the in vivo passage is responsible for several modifications of phase variable genes. This genomic study has been completed by transcriptomic and phenotypic studies, showing that the blood strain used a different haemoglobin-linked iron receptor (HpuA/B) than the parental strains (HmbR). Different pilin variants were found after the in vivo passage, which expressed different properties of adhesion. Furthermore the deletion of one gene involved in LOS biosynthesis (lgtB) results in Z5463BC expressing a different LOS than the L9 immunotype of Z2491. The in vivo passage, despite the small numbers of divisions, permits the selection of numerous genomic modifications that may account for the high capacity of the strain to disseminate.
PMCID: PMC3046118  PMID: 21386889
10.  Functional Characterization of Lpt3 and Lpt6, the Inner-Core Lipooligosaccharide Phosphoethanolamine Transferases from Neisseria meningitidis▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;192(1):208-216.
The lipooligosaccharide (LOS) of Neisseria meningitidis contains heptose (Hep) residues that are modified with phosphoethanolamine (PEtn) at the 3 (3-PEtn) and/or 6 (6-PEtn) position. The lpt3 (NMB2010) and lpt6 (NMA0408) genes of N. meningitidis, which are proposed to encode the required HepII 3- and 6-PEtn transferases, respectively, were cloned and overexpressed as C-terminally polyhistidine-tagged fusion proteins in Escherichia coli and found to localize to the inner membrane, based on sucrose density gradient centrifugation. Lpt3-His6 and Lpt6-His6 were purified from Triton X-100-solubilized membranes by nickel chelation chromatography, and dot blot analysis of enzymatic reactions with 3-PEtn- and 6-PEtn-specific monoclonal antibodies demonstrated conclusively that Lpt3 and Lpt6 are phosphatidylethanolamine-dependent LOS HepII 3- and 6-PEtn transferases, respectively, and that both enzymes are capable of transferring PEtn to both fully acylated LOS and de-O-acylated (de-O-Ac) LOS. Further enzymatic studies using capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry (MS) demonstrated that both Lpt3 and Lpt6 are capable of transferring PEtn to de-O-Ac LOS molecules already containing PEtn at the 6 and 3 positions of HepII, respectively, demonstrating that there is no obligate order of PEtn addition in the generation of 3,6-di-PEtn LOS moieties in vitro.
PMCID: PMC2798236  PMID: 19854897
11.  Minimal oligosaccharide structures required for induction of immune responses against meningococcal immunotype L1, L2, and L3,7,9 lipopolysaccharides determined by using synthetic oligosaccharide-protein conjugates. 
Infection and Immunity  1991;59(10):3566-3573.
The 12 types of meningococcal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) (immunotypes) contain immunotype-specific and cross-reactive epitopes situated on the oligosaccharide part of the LPS molecules. To identify useful cross-reactive epitopes and to determine minimal oligosaccharide structures required for the induction of an immune response against the most prevalent immunotypes, L1, L2, and L3,7,9, synthetic as well as native LPS-derived oligosaccharides were conjugated with tetanus toxoid. L3,7,9 phosphoethanolamine (PEA) group-containing oligosaccharide-tetanus toxoid conjugates evoked high immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody levels in rabbits which were detected by an L2-, L3,7,9-, and, depending on the antiserum, L1-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Inhibition studies revealed that an identical antibody population was detected by L1 and L3,7,9 ELISA, indicating a similar tertiary structure of the inner core oligosaccharide of these two immunotypes. These antibodies recognize PEA group-containing epitopes present on the L1 and L3,7,9 LPS. An L2 PEA group-containing oligosaccharide-tetanus toxoid conjugate elicited L2- and L3,7,9-specific IgG antibodies, but in contrast with the L3,7,9 conjugates, no L1-specific IgG antibodies were evoked. These results indicate that L1 and L2 LPS do not contain cross-reactive epitopes, whereas both L2 and L3,7,9 LPS and L1 and L3,7,9 LPS possess common determinants. Three linear oligosaccharides and one branched oligosaccharide, representing partial structures of the inner core oligosacchardes of meningococcal LPS, were synthesized. Only the branched synthetic oligosaccharide-containing conjugate was able to induce and L1- and L3,7,9-specific immune response, whereas the linear oligosaccharide-protein conjugates evoked L2-specific immune responses. The branched oligosaccharide (beta-D-Glcp(1----4)-[L-alpha-D-Hepp(1----3)]-L-alpha-D-Hepp ) is therefore considered a minimal structure required for the induction of an immune response against L1 and L3,7,9 LPS and part of a cross-reactive epitope between these two immunotypes. For L2-specific immune responses, oligosaccharide structures terminating in beta-D-Glcp(1----4), alpha-D-GlcNAcp(1----2), or L-alpha-D-Hepp(1----5) are needed. The results suggest that it is possible to prepare an oligosaccharide structure with the ability to evoke an immune response against L1, L2, and L3,7,9 LPS. A feasible structure for such a "hybrid" oligosaccharide is discussed.
PMCID: PMC258922  PMID: 1910006
12.  The (α2→8)-Linked Polysialic Acid Capsule and Lipooligosaccharide Structure Both Contribute to the Ability of Serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis To Resist the Bactericidal Activity of Normal Human Serum 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(12):5939-5947.
The molecular basis for the resistance of serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis to the bactericidal activity of normal human sera (NHS) was examined with a NHS-resistant, invasive serogroup B meningococcal isolate and genetically and structurally defined capsule-, lipooligosaccharide (LOS)-, and sialylation-altered mutants of the wild-type strain. Expression of the (α2→8)-linked polysialic acid serogroup B capsule was essential for meningococcal resistance to NHS. The very NHS-sensitive phenotype of acapsular mutants (99.9 to 100% killed in 10, 25, and 50% NHS) was not rescued by complete LOS sialylation or changes in LOS structure. However, expression of the capsule was necessary but not sufficient for a fully NHS-resistant phenotype. In an encapsulated background, loss of LOS sialylation by interrupting the α2,3 sialyltransferase gene, lst, increased sensitivity to 50% NHS. In contrast, replacement of the lacto-N-neotetraose α-chain (Galβ1-4GlcNAcβ1-3Galβ1-4Glc) with glucose extensions (GlcN) in a galE mutant resulted in a strain resistant to killing by 50% NHS at all time points. Encapsulated meningococci expressing a Hep2(GlcNAc)→KDO2→lipid A LOS without an α-chain demonstrated enhanced sensitivity to 50% NHS (98% killed at 30 min) mediated through the antibody-dependent classical complement pathway. Encapsulated LOS mutants expressing truncated Hep2→KDO2→lipid A and KDO2→lipid A structures were also sensitive to 50% NHS (98 to 100% killed at 30 min) but, unlike the wild-type strain and mutants with larger oligosaccharide structures, they were killed by hypogammaglobulinemic sera. These data indicate that encapsulation is essential but that the LOS structure contributes to the ability of serogroup B N. meningitidis to resist the bactericidal activity of NHS.
PMCID: PMC108752  PMID: 9826376
13.  Two glycosyltransferase genes, lgtF and rfaK, constitute the lipooligosaccharide ice (inner core extension) biosynthesis operon of Neisseria meningitidis. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(23):6677-6684.
We have characterized an operon required for inner-core biosynthesis of the lipooligosaccharide (LOS) of Neisseria meningitidis. Using Tn916 mutagenesis, we recently identified the alpha-1,2-N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) transferase gene (rfaK), which when inactivated prevents the addition of GlcNAc and alpha chain to the meningococcal LOS inner core (C. M. Kahler, R. W. Carlson, M. M. Rahman, L. E. Martin, and D. S. Stephens, J. Bacteriol. 178:1265-1273, 1996). During the study of rfaK, a second open reading frame (lgtF) of 720 bp was found upstream of rfaK. An amino acid sequence homology search of the GenBank and EMBL databases revealed that the amino terminus of LgtF has significant homology with a family of beta-glycosyltransferases involved in the biosynthesis of polysaccharides and O antigen of lipopolysaccharides. The chromosomal copy of lgtF was mutagenized with a nonpolar antibiotic resistance cassette to minimize potential polar effects on rfaK. Tricine sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and composition analysis of the LOS from the nonpolar lgtF mutant showed that this strain produced a truncated LOS structure which contained a LOS inner core of GlcNAc1Hep2KDO2lipid A but without the addition of lacto-N-neotetraose to HepI or glucose to HepII. These results and the amino acid homology with beta-glycosyltransferases suggest that lgtF encodes the UDP-glucose:LOS-beta-1,4-glucosyltransferase which attaches the first glucose residue to HepI of LOS. Reverse transcriptase PCR and primer extension analysis indicate that both lgtF and rfaK are cotranscribed as a polycistronic message from a promoter upstream of lgtF. This arrangement suggests that completion of the LOS inner core and the initiation of the alpha chain addition are tightly coregulated in N. meningitidis.
PMCID: PMC178561  PMID: 8955282
14.  Anti-Gal binds to pili of Neisseria meningitidis: the immunoglobulin A isotype blocks complement-mediated killing. 
Infection and Immunity  1995;63(12):4900-4906.
alpha 1,3-Galactosyl antibodies (anti-Gal) are ubiquitous natural human serum and secretory polyclonal antibodies that bind to terminal galactose-alpha 1,3-galactose (alpha-galactosyl) residues. Serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) anti-Gal can block alternative complement pathway-mediated lysis of representative gram-negative enteric bacteria that bind it to lipopolysaccharide alpha-galactosyl structures, thereby promoting survival of such bacteria in the nonimmune host. We wanted to know whether anti-Gal also could bind to the lipooligosaccharides (LOS) of Neisseria meningitidis. To our surprise, we found that serum and secretory anti-Gal bound to pili but not to LOS of certain strains. This suggested the presence of an immunogenic pilus carbohydrate epitope. Mild periodate oxidation of sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis-separated outer membrane preparations from strains that bound anti-Gal followed by labeling of the neoaldehyde groups resulted in the labeling of bands that corresponded to pilin and LOS, confirming that pilin contains carbohydrate structures. A Bandeiraea simplicifolia lectin that also binds terminal alpha 1,3-galactosyl residues also bound to pilin. Serum IgG, IgA, and IgM anti-Gal as well as colostral secretory IgA anti-Gal bound to pilin, as judged by immunoblotting, and to the pili of intact piliated organisms, as judged by immunoelectron microscopy. Total serum anti-Gal (IgG, IgA, and IgM) and purified serum IgA1 anti-Gal, but not its purified IgG isotype, blocked complement-mediated lysis of a piliated meningococcal strain that bound anti-Gal to its pili. Colostral anti-Gal secretory IgA blocked killing of the same strain. Thus, anti-Gal IgA may promote disease when it binds to the pili of N. meningitidis strains.
PMCID: PMC173702  PMID: 7591153
15.  Enhanced Factor H Binding to Sialylated Gonococci Is Restricted to the Sialylated Lacto-N-Neotetraose Lipooligosaccharide Species: Implications for Serum Resistance and Evidence for a Bifunctional Lipooligosaccharide Sialyltransferase in Gonococci  
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(11):7390-7397.
We isolated serologically identical (by serovar determination and porin variable region [VR] typing) strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae from an infected male and two of his monogamous female sex partners. One strain (termed 398078) expressed the L1 (Galα1 → 3Galβ1 → 4Glcβ1 → 4HepI) lipooligosaccharide (LOS) structure exclusively; the other (termed 398079) expressed the lacto-N-neotetraose (LNT; Galβ1 → 4GlcNAcβ1 → 3Galβ1 → 4Glcβ1 → 4HepI) LOS structure. The strain from the male index case expressed both glycoforms and exhibited both immunotypes. Nuclear magnetic resonance analysis revealed that sialic acid linked to the terminal Gal of L1 LOS via an α2 → 6 linkage and, as expected, to the terminal Gal of LNT LOS via an α2→ 3 linkage. Insertional inactivation of the sialyltransferase gene (known to sialylate LNT LOS) abrogated both L1 LOS sialylation and LNT LOS sialylation, suggesting a bifunctional nature of this enzyme in gonococci. Akin to our previous observations, sialylation of the LNT LOS of strain 398079 enhanced the binding of the complement regulatory molecule, factor H. Rather surprisingly, factor H did not bind to sialylated strain 398078. LOS sialylation conferred the LNT LOS-bearing strain complete (100%) resistance to killing by even 50% nonimmune normal human serum (NHS), whereas sialylation of L1 LOS conferred resistance only to 10% NHS. The ability of gonococcal sialylated LNT to bind factor H confers high-level serum resistance, which is not seen with sialylated L1 LOS. Thus, serum resistance mediated by sialylation of gonococcal L1 and LNT LOS occurs by different mechanisms, and specificity of factor H binding to sialylated gonococci is restricted to the LNT LOS species.
PMCID: PMC1273834  PMID: 16239538
16.  Improvement of Immunogenicity of Meningococcal Lipooligosaccharide by Coformulation with Lipidated Transferrin-Binding Protein B in Liposomes: Implications for Vaccine Development 
Among various meningococcal antigens, lipooligosaccharide (LOS) and recombinant lipidated transferrin-binding protein B (rlip-TbpB) are considered to be putative vaccine candidates against group B Neisseria meningitidis. In the present work, we report the development of a new liposome-based vaccine formulation containing both rlip-TbpB and L8 LOS. The endotoxic activity of the liposomal LOS was evaluated in vitro using the Limulus Amebocyte Lysate assay and compared to the endotoxic activity of free LOS. Above a 250:1 lipid/LOS molar ratio, liposomes were shown to effectively detoxify the LOS as the endotoxic activity of the LOS was reduced by more than 99%. Immunogenicity studies in rabbits showed that the presence of rlip-TbpB dramatically increased the immunogenicity of the LOS. While the formulation raised a strong anti-TbpB response, it elicited a higher anti-LOS IgG level than the liposomal LOS alone. Sera from rabbits immunized with rlip-TbpB/liposomal LOS displayed increased ability to recognize LOS on live bacteria expressing the L8 immunotype and increased anti-LOS-specific bactericidal activity compared to sera from rabbits immunized with liposomal LOS alone. Measurement of interleukin-8 (IL-8) produced by HEK293 cells transfected with Toll-like receptor (TLR) after stimulation with rlip-TbpB showed that the protein is a TLR2 agonist, which is in accordance with the structure of its lipid. Furthermore, an in vivo study demonstrated that the lipid moiety is not only required for its adjuvant effect but also has to be linked to the protein. Overall, the rlip-TbpB/LOS liposomal formulation was demonstrated to induce an effective anti-LOS response due to the adjuvant effect of rlip-TbpB on LOS.
PMCID: PMC3346337  PMID: 22441387
17.  Microheterogeneity of Neisseria lipooligosaccharide: analysis of a UDP-glucose 4-epimerase mutant of Neisseria meningitidis NMB. 
Infection and Immunity  1995;63(7):2508-2515.
Neisseria meningitidis is the etiologic agent of epidemic bacterial meningitis. Lipooligosaccharide (LOS) is a principal virulence factor associated with the organism, and sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis of LOS has demonstrated that there is considerable microheterogeneity in the molecule. To begin our understanding of the nature of this heterogeneity, we identified a Tn916-generated LOS mutant of N. meningitidis NMB (serotype L3, monoclonal antibodies 3F11+, 6B4+, and 4C4-) that was designated NMB-SS3 (monoclonal antibodies 3F11-, 6B4-, and 4C4+). The transposon insertion was localized to the amino terminus of the functional copy of the UDP-Glc 4-epimerase gene (galE). UDP-Glc 4-epimerase (EC activity was present in N. meningitidis NMB but not in NMB-SS3, indicating that the Tn916 insertion had abolished this activity. Mass spectrometric analysis of the LOS from strain NMB revealed multiple species of LOS, which is consistent with extensive microheterogeneity. While the most predominant structure was consistent with a terminal lacto-N-neotetrose structure found in other strains of N. meningitidis, Gal beta 1-->4GlcNAc beta 1-->3Gal beta 1-->4Glc-->(GlcNAc)-->Hep2PEA-->KDO2 (where Hep is heptose, PEA is phosphoethanolamine, and KDO is 2-keto-3-deoxymannooctulosonic acid), structures containing repetitive hexoses which are not precursors of this structure were also identified. Compositional analysis of LOS from strain NMB-SS3 revealed that there were no galactoses present in the structure. Mass spectrometric analysis of O-deacylated LOS revealed the presence of multiple species, with the predominant LOS species in this mutant strain formed by the Hex-->(HexNAc)-->Hep2PEA-->KDO2 (where Hex is hexose and HexNAc is N-acetylhexosamine) structure. However, LOS structures with repetitive hexoses, e.g., Hexn-->(HexNAc)-->Hep2PEA-->KDO2 (n = 2, 3, or 4), emanating from one or both heptoses were also identified. Since this mutant cannot synthesize UDP-Gal, these structures must repetitive glucoses. These data suggest that NMB has a glycosyltransferase capable of polymerizing glucose moieties as an alternative biosynthetic pathway to the wild-type lacto-N-neotetrose structure.
PMCID: PMC173335  PMID: 7790063
18.  Lipooligosaccharides (LOS) of some Haemophilus species mimic human glycosphingolipids, and some LOS are sialylated. 
Infection and Immunity  1992;60(4):1322-1328.
The lipooligosaccharides (LOS) of strains of Haemophilus ducreyi, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Neisseria meningitidis, and Neisseria lactamica contain epitopes that are antigenically and structurally similar to carbohydrates present in human glycosphingolipids. LOS from strains of Haemophilus influenzae and H. influenzae biogroup aegyptius were tested for the binding of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that bind to human glycosphingolipids possessing Gal beta 1-4GlcNAc (MAb 3F11) and Gal alpha 1-4Gal beta 1-4Glc (MAb anti-Pk). In solid-phase radioimmunoassays, the LOS of 18 of 19 H. influenzae type b (Hib), 8 of 19 nontypeable H. influenzae, and 10 of 20 H. influenzae biogroup aegyptius strains bound MAb anti-Pk. The LOS of 13 of 19 Hib, 10 of 16 nontypeable H. influenzae, and 2 of 18 H. influenzae biogroup aegyptius strains bound MAb 3F11. Neuraminidase treatment of the strains increased the binding of MAb 3F11 by more than twofold in 47% of the H. influenzae strains, suggesting that sialic acid occluded the LOS structure recognized by MAb 3F11. The material released from neuraminidase-treated Hib LOS was confirmed to be sialic acid by high-performance anion-exchange chromatography. A recombinant plasmid containing genes involved in Hib LOS biosynthesis directed the expression (assembly) of the 3F11 epitope in Escherichia coli. These studies demonstrate that H. influenzae and H. influenzae biogroup aegyptius express at least two LOS epitopes that are similar to those present in human glycosphingolipids. Sialic acid was present on the LOS of some H. influenzae strains and prevented the binding of MAb 3F11 to its epitope. The oligosaccharide portion of sialylated LOS may also resemble sialylated oligosaccharides present in human glycosphingolipids (gangliosides).
PMCID: PMC256999  PMID: 1372291
19.  α-2,3-Sialyltransferase Expression Level Impacts the Kinetics of Lipooligosaccharide Sialylation, Complement Resistance, and the Ability of Neisseria gonorrhoeae to Colonize the Murine Genital Tract 
mBio  2015;6(1):e02465-14.
Neisseria meningitidis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae modify the terminal lacto-N-neotetraose moiety of their lipooligosaccharide (LOS) with sialic acid. N. gonorrhoeae LOS sialylation blocks killing by complement, which is mediated at least in part by enhanced binding of the complement inhibitor factor H (FH). The role of LOS sialylation in resistance of N. meningitidis to serum killing is less well defined. Sialylation in each species is catalyzed by the enzyme LOS α-2,3-sialyltransferase (Lst). Previous studies have shown increased Lst activity in N. gonorrhoeae compared to N. meningitidis due to an ~5-fold increase in lst transcription. Using isogenic N. gonorrhoeae strains engineered to express gonococcal lst from either the N. gonorrhoeae or N. meningitidis lst promoter, we show that decreased expression of lst (driven by the N. meningitidis promoter) reduced LOS sialylation as determined by less incorporation of tritium-labeled cytidine monophospho-N-acetylneuraminic acid (CMP-NANA; the donor molecule for sialic acid). Diminished LOS sialylation resulted in reduced rates of FH binding and increased pathway activation compared to N. gonorrhoeae promoter-driven lst expression. The N. meningitidis lst promoter generated sufficient Lst to sialylate N. gonorrhoeae LOS in vivo, and the level of sialylation after 24 h in the mouse genital tract was sufficient to mediate resistance to human serum ex vivo. Despite demonstrable LOS sialylation in vivo, gonococci harboring the N. meningitidis lst promoter were outcompeted by those with the N. gonorrhoeae lst promoter during coinfection of the vaginal tract of estradiol-treated mice. These data highlight the importance of high lst expression levels for gonococcal pathogenesis.
IMPORTANCE  Neisseria gonorrhoeae has become resistant to nearly every therapeutic antibiotic used and is listed as an “urgent threat” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Novel therapies are needed to combat drug-resistant N. gonorrhoeae. Gonococci express an α-2,3-sialyltransferase (Lst) that can scavenge sialic acid from the host and use it to modify lipooligosaccharide (LOS). Sialylation of gonococcal LOS converts serum-sensitive strains to serum resistance, decreases antibody binding, and combats killing by neutrophils and antimicrobial peptides. Mutant N. gonorrhoeae that lack Lst (cannot sialylate LOS) are attenuated in a mouse model. Lst expression levels differ among N. gonorrhoeae strains, and N. gonorrhoeae typically expresses more Lst than Neisseria meningitidis. Here we examined the significance of differential lst expression levels and determined that the level of LOS sialylation is critical to the ability of N. gonorrhoeae to combat the immune system and survive in an animal model. LOS sialylation may be an ideal target for novel therapies.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae has become resistant to nearly every therapeutic antibiotic used and is listed as an “urgent threat” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Novel therapies are needed to combat drug-resistant N. gonorrhoeae. Gonococci express an α-2,3-sialyltransferase (Lst) that can scavenge sialic acid from the host and use it to modify lipooligosaccharide (LOS). Sialylation of gonococcal LOS converts serum-sensitive strains to serum resistance, decreases antibody binding, and combats killing by neutrophils and antimicrobial peptides. Mutant N. gonorrhoeae that lack Lst (cannot sialylate LOS) are attenuated in a mouse model. Lst expression levels differ among N. gonorrhoeae strains, and N. gonorrhoeae typically expresses more Lst than Neisseria meningitidis. Here we examined the significance of differential lst expression levels and determined that the level of LOS sialylation is critical to the ability of N. gonorrhoeae to combat the immune system and survive in an animal model. LOS sialylation may be an ideal target for novel therapies.
PMCID: PMC4324315  PMID: 25650401
20.  Complete Genome Sequence of Neisseria meningitidis Serogroup A Strain NMA510612, Isolated from a Patient with Bacterial Meningitis in China 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(3):e00360-14.
Serogroup A meningococcal strains have been involved in several pandemics and a series of epidemics worldwide in the past. Determination of the genome sequence of the prevalent genotype strain will help us understand the genetic background of the evolutionary and epidemiological properties of these bacteria. We sequenced the complete genome of Neisseria meningitidis NMA510612, a clinical isolate from a patient with meningococcal meningitis.
PMCID: PMC4014685  PMID: 24812217
21.  Genome Analysis and Strain Comparison of Correia Repeats and Correia Repeat-Enclosed Elements in Pathogenic Neisseria 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(22):6163-6173.
Whole genome sequences of Neisseria meningitidis strains Z2491 and MC58 and Neisseria gonorrhoeae FA1090 were analyzed for Correia repeats (CR) and CR-enclosed elements (CREE). A total of 533, 516, and 256 copies of CR and 270, 261, and 102 copies of CREE were found in these three genomes, respectively. The lengths of CREE range from 28 to 348 bp, and the lengths of multicopy CREE appear mainly in the ranges of 154 to 156 bp and 105 to 107 bp. The distribution of CREE lengths is similar between the two N. meningitidis genomes, with a greater number of 154- to 156-bp CREE (163 and 152 copies in N. meningitidis strain Z2491 and N. meningitidis strain MC58, respectively) than 105- to 107-bp CREE (72 and 77 copies). In the N. gonorrhoeae strain FA1090 genome there are relatively more 105- to 107-bp CREE (51 copies) than 154- to 156-bp CREE (36 copies). The genomic distribution of 107-bp CREE also shows similarity between the two N. meningitidis strains (15 copies share the same loci) and differences between N. meningitidis strains and N. gonorrhoeae FA1090 (only one copy is located in the same locus). Detailed sequence analysis showed that both the terminal inverted repeats and the core regions of CREE are composed of distinct basic sequence blocks. Direct TA dinucleotide repeats exist at the termini of all CREE. A survey of DNA sequence upstream of the sialyltransferase gene, lst, in several Neisseria isolates showed that 5 N. meningitidis strains contain a 107-bp CREE in this region but 25 N. gonorrhoeae strains show an exact absence of a 105-bp sequence block (i.e., the 107-bp CREE without a 5′ TA dinucleotide) in the same region. Whole-genome sequence analysis confirmed that this 105-bp indel exists in many homologous 107-bp CREE loci. Thus, we postulate that all CREE are made of target TA with indels of various lengths. Analysis of 107-bp CREE revealed that they exist predominantly in intergenic regions and are often near virulence, metabolic, and transporter genes. The abundance of CREE in Neisseria genomes suggests that they may have played a role in genome organization, function, and evolution. Their differential distribution in different pathogenic Neisseria strains may contribute to the distinct behaviors of each Neisseria species.
PMCID: PMC151967  PMID: 12399486
22.  The Development of an Experimental Multiple Serogroups Vaccine for Neisseria meningitidis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79304.
A native outer membrane vesicles (NOMV) vaccine was developed from three antigenically diverse strains of Neisseria meningitidis that express the L1,8, L2, and L3,7 lipooligosaccharide (LOS) immunotypes, and whose synX, and lpxL1 genes were deleted.. Immunogenicity studies in mice showed that the vaccine induced bactericidal antibody against serogroups B, C, W, Y and X N. meningitidis strains. However, this experimental NOMV vaccine was not effective against serogroup A N. meningitidis strains. N. meningitidis capsular polysaccharide (PS) from serogroups A, C, W and Y were effective at inducing bactericidal antibody when conjugated to either tetanus toxoid or the fHbp1-fHbp2 fusion protein fHbp(1+2). The combination of the NOMV vaccine and the N. meningitidis serogroup A capsular polysaccharide (MAPS) protein conjugate was capable of inducing bactericidal antibodies against a limited number of N. meningitidis strains from serogroups A, B, C, W, Y and X tested in this study.
PMCID: PMC3828347  PMID: 24244473
23.  Meningococcal lipopolysaccharides: virulence factor and potential vaccine component. 
Microbiological Reviews  1993;57(1):34-49.
Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are surface components of the outer membrane of Neisseria meningitidis. Today, 12 different types of meningococcal LPS (immunotypes) are known, of which 3 are prevalent in the western world. The differences between these immunotypes are in the oligosaccharide part of the LPS molecule and consist of small differences in the oligosaccharide structure, the amount and location of phosphoethanolamine groups, and the degree of O acetylation of individual monosaccharides. Although the differences between the various immunotypes are small, they have a profound influence on the immunochemical and immunological properties of these molecules. Furthermore, each individual strain synthesizes a number of different LPS molecules. The expression of the various components (protective epitopes) is influenced by growth conditions and growth phase. Meningococci can endogenously sialyate their LPS, which constitutes one of the mechanisms by which N. meningitidis can evade the response of the human host. Meningococcal LPS play a key role in the induction of septic shock and can probably enhance the invasiveness of meningococcal strains and shield protective epitopes. Therefore, incorporation of (detoxified) LPS or oligosaccharide components derived therefrom might be very beneficial for the efficacy of a vaccine against group B meningococci. An overview of the development of vaccines against group B meningococci is given, and the status and potential of meningococcal LPS-derived (synthetic) oligosaccharide-protein conjugate vaccines are discussed.
PMCID: PMC372900  PMID: 8464406
24.  Heterogeneity and variation among Neisseria meningitidis lipopolysaccharides. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1983;155(2):498-504.
Eight immunotype lipopolysaccharides (LPSs) of Neisseria meningitidis were prepared by the phenol-water procedure and characterized by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and sugar analyses. By SDS-PAGE and a highly sensitive silver strain. N. meningitidis LPSs from cells grown in tryptic soy broth were shown to contain one or two predominant components and a few minor, somewhat higher-molecular-weight components. The molecular sizes of the two predominant components were approximately the same as those of two E. coli rough-type LPSs, one with a complete core and the other with an incomplete core. The molecular weight of the major LPS component varied somewhat among different immunotypes but was estimated to be in the range of 4,200 to 5,000. By sugar analyses, the eight immunotype LPSs were different in their monosaccharide compositions. All contained glucose, galactose, heptose, glucosamine, and 2-keto-3-deoxyoctonate, but in different molar ratios. The growth of N. meningitidis in tryptic soy broth under different levels of aeration resulted in a change in the two major LPS components seen on the SDS-PAGE gel. High aeration increased the amount of the smaller component, whereas low aeration increased the amount of the larger component. Sugar analyses of LPSs from high and low aeration indicated that the larger LPS component contained more galactose residues per molecule. Use of different media for cell growth may also result in small, but noticeable, variations in the LPS components and in the galactose content of the LPS. The observed heterogeneity of N. meningitidis LPS may explain why many strains of N. meningitidis appear to possess more than one immunotype.
PMCID: PMC217716  PMID: 6409879
25.  Lipooligosaccharide Structure Contributes to Multiple Steps in the Virulence of Neisseria meningitidis  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(2):1360-1367.
Lipooligosaccharide (LOS) of Neisseria meningitidis has been implicated in meningococcal interaction with host epithelial cells and is a major factor contributing to the human proinflammatory response to meningococci. LOS mutants of the encapsulated N. meningitidis serogroup B strain NMB were used to further determine the importance of the LOS structure in in vitro adherence and invasion of human pharyngeal epithelial cells by meningococci and to study pathogenicity in a mouse (CD46 transgenic) model of meningococcal disease. The wild-type strain [NeuNAc-Galβ-GlcNAc-Galβ-Glcβ-Hep2 (GlcNAc, Glcα) 3-deoxy-d-manno-2-octulosonic acid (KDO2)-lipid A; 1,4′ bisphosphorylated], although poorly adherent, rapidly invaded an epithelial cell layer in vitro, survived and multiplied early in blood, reached the cerebrospinal fluid, and caused lethal disease in the mouse model. In contrast, the Hep2 (GlcNAc) KDO2-lipid A (pgm) mutant, which was highly adherent to cultured epithelial cells, caused significantly less bacteremia and mortality in the mouse model. The Hep2-KDO2-lipid A (rfaK) mutant was shown to be moderately adherent and to cause levels of bacteremia and mortality similar to those caused by the wild-type strain in the mouse model. The KDO2-lipid A (gmhB) mutant, which lacks the heptose disaccharide in the inner core of LOS, avidly attached to epithelial cells but was otherwise avirulent. Disease development correlated with expression of specific LOS structures and was associated with lower adherence but rapid meningococcal passage to and survival in the bloodstream, induction of proinflammatory cytokines, and the crossing of the blood-brain barrier. Taken together, the results of this study further define the importance of the LOS structure as a virulence component involved in multiple steps in the pathogenesis of N. meningitidis.
PMCID: PMC1360357  PMID: 16428785

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