The major outer membrane protein PorB from N. meningitidis was crystallized in three crystal forms; the best X-ray diffraction data were collected to 2.3 Å resolution.
The Neisseria meningitidis outer membrane protein PorB was expressed in Escherichia coli and purified from inclusion bodies by denaturation in urea followed by refolding in buffered LDAO on a size-exclusion column. PorB has been crystallized in three different crystal forms: C222, R32 and P63. The C222 crystal form may contain either one or two PorB monomers in the asymmetric unit, while both the R32 and P63 crystal forms contained one PorB monomer in the asymmetric unit. Of the three, the P63 crystal form had the best diffraction quality, yielding data extending to 2.3 Å resolution.
outer membrane proteins; Neisseria meningitidis; denaturation; refolding; detergents; β-barrel membrane proteins; porins
Porin (PorB) is a major outer membrane protein produced by all Neisseria gonorrhoeae strains and has been a focus of intense interest as a vaccine candidate. In this study, the immunogenicity of PorB in mice was investigated after several immunization regimens. Outer membrane vesicles (OMV), recombinant renatured PorB (rrPorB), and PorB-expressing Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) virus replicon particles (PorB VRP) were delivered intranasally (i.n.) or subcutaneously (s.c.) into the dorsal area or the hind footpad in three-dose schedules; the PorB VRP-immunized mice were given a single additional booster dose of rrPorB in Ribi adjuvant. Different delivery systems and administration routes induced different immune responses. Mice immunized s.c. with rrPorB in Ribi had the highest levels of PorB-specific serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Surprisingly, there was an apparent Th1 bias, based on IgG1/IgG2a ratios, after immunization with rrPorB in Ribi in the footpad while the same vaccine given in the dorsal area gave a strongly Th2-biased response. PorB VRP-immunized mice produced a consistent Th1 response with a high gamma interferon response in stimulated splenic lymphocytes and very low IgG1/IgG2a ratios. Immunization by OMV delivered i.n. was the only regimen that resulted in a serum bactericidal response, and it generated an excellent mucosal IgA response. Serum from mice immunized with rrPorB preferentially recognized the surface of whole gonococci expressing a homologous PorB, whereas serum from PorB VRP-immunized mice had relatively low whole-cell binding activity but recognized both heterologous and homologous PorB equally. The data resulting from this direct comparison suggested that important aspects of the immune response can be manipulated by altering the form of the antigen and its delivery. This information coupled with an understanding of protective antigonococcal immune responses will enable the design of the optimal vaccine for N. gonorrhoeae.
The bacterial PorB porin, an ATP-binding β-barrel protein of pathogenic Neisseria gonorrhoeae, triggers host cell apoptosis by an unknown mechanism. PorB is targeted to and imported by host cell mitochondria, causing the breakdown of the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm). Here, we show that PorB induces the condensation of the mitochondrial matrix and the loss of cristae structures, sensitizing cells to the induction of apoptosis via signaling pathways activated by BH3-only proteins. PorB is imported into mitochondria through the general translocase TOM but, unexpectedly, is not recognized by the SAM sorting machinery, usually required for the assembly of β-barrel proteins in the mitochondrial outer membrane. PorB integrates into the mitochondrial inner membrane, leading to the breakdown of ΔΨm. The PorB channel is regulated by nucleotides and an isogenic PorB mutant defective in ATP-binding failed to induce ΔΨm loss and apoptosis, demonstrating that dissipation of ΔΨm is a requirement for cell death caused by neisserial infection.
PorB is a bacterial porin that plays an important role in the pathogenicity of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Upon infection with these bacteria, PorB is transported into mitochondria of infected cells, causing the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and eventually leading to apoptotic cell death. Here, we show that PorB enters mitochondria through the TOM complex, similar to other mitochondria-targeted proteins, but then bypasses the SAM complex machinery that assembles all other porin-like proteins into the outer mitochondrial membrane. This leads to the accumulation of PorB in the intermembrane space and the integration of a fraction of PorB into the inner mitochondrial membrane (IMM). In the IMM, ATP-regulated pores are formed, leading to dissipation of membrane potential and the loss of cristae structure in affected mitochondria, the necessary first steps in induction of apoptosis. Our work offers, for the first time, a detailed analysis of the mechanism by which PorB targets and damages host cell mitochondria.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a major role in host mucosal and systemic defense mechanisms by recognizing a diverse array of conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). TLR2, with TLR1 and TLR6, recognizes structurally diverse bacterial products such as lipidated factors (lipoproteins and peptidoglycans) and nonlipidated proteins, i.e., bacterial porins. PorB is a pan-neisserial porin expressed regardless of organisms' pathogenicity. However, commensal Neisseria lactamica organisms and purified N. lactamica PorB (published elsewhere as Nlac PorB) induce TLR2-dependent proinflammatory responses of lower magnitude than N. meningitidis organisms and N. meningitidis PorB (published elsewhere as Nme PorB). Both PorB types bind to TLR2 in vitro but with different apparent specificities. The structural and molecular details of PorB-TLR2 interaction are only beginning to be unraveled and may be due to electrostatic attraction. PorB molecules have significant strain-specific sequence variability within surface-exposed regions (loops) putatively involved in TLR2 interaction. By constructing chimeric recombinant PorB loop mutants in which surface-exposed loop residues have been switched between N. lactamica PorB and N. meningitidis PorB, we identified residues in loop 5 and loop 7 that influence TLR2-dependent cell activation using HEK cells and BEAS-2B cells. These loops are not uniquely responsible for PorB interaction with TLR2, but NF-κB and MAP kinases signaling downstream of TLR2 recognition are likely influenced by a hypothetical “TLR2-binding signature” within the sequence of PorB surface-exposed loops. Consistent with the effect of purified PorB in vitro, a chimeric N. meningitidis strain expressing N. lactamica PorB induces lower levels of interleukin 8 (IL-8) secretion than wild-type N. meningitidis, suggesting a role for PorB in induction of host cell activation by whole bacteria.
The identification of “factor H binding protein (fHbp)-null” invasive meningococcal isolates and the realization that widespread use of fHbp-based vaccines could herald selection of such strains prompted us to characterize novel mechanisms of alternative pathway (AP) inhibition on meningococci. Of seven strains engineered to lack four known AP-inhibiting molecules, capsular polysaccharide, lipooligosaccharide sialic acid, fHbp, and neisserial surface protein A (quadruple mutants), four strains inhibited human AP-mediated C3 deposition. All four expressed the porin B2 (PorB2) molecule, and three strains belonged to the hypervirulent ST-11 lineage. Consistent with reduced C3 deposition, the rate of C3a generation by a PorB2 isolate was lower than that by a PorB3 strain. Allelic replacement of PorB3 with PorB2, in both encapsulated and unencapsulated strains, confirmed the role of PorB2 in AP inhibition. Expression of PorB2 increased resistance to complement-dependent killing relative to that seen in an isogenic PorB3-expressing strain. Adult rabbit and mouse APs were unimpeded on all mutants, and human fH inhibited nonhuman C3 deposition on PorB2-expressing strains, which provided functional evidence for human fH-dependent AP regulation by PorB2. Low-affinity binding of full-length human fH to quadruple mutants expressing PorB2 was demonstrated. fH-like protein 1 (FHL-1; contains fH domains 1 through 7) and fH domains 6 and 7 fused to IgG Fc bound to one PorB2-expressing quadruple mutant, which suggested that fH domains 6 and 7 may interact with PorB2. These results associate PorB2 expression with serum resistance and presage the appearance of fHbp-null and hypervirulent ST-11 isolates that may evade killing by fHbp-based vaccines.
The widespread use of antimeningococcal vaccines based on factor H (fH) binding protein (fHbp) is imminent. Meningococci that lack fHbp were recently isolated from persons with invasive disease, and these fHbp-null strains could spawn vaccine failure. Our report provides a molecular basis for an explanation of how fHbp-null strains may evade the host immune system. Meningococci possess several mechanisms to subvert killing by the alternative pathway (AP) of complement, including production of the fHbp and NspA fH binding proteins. Here we show that a meningococcal protein called porin B2 (PorB2) contributes to inhibition of the AP on the bacterial surface. A majority of the “fHbp-null” isolates identified, as well as all members of a “hypervirulent” lineage (called ST-11), express PorB2. Our findings highlight the potential for the emergence of fHbp-negative strains that are able to regulate the AP and may be associated with fHbp vaccine failure.
Both Neisseria meningitidis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae recruit the alternative pathway complement inhibitory protein factor H (fH) to their surfaces to evade complement-dependent killing. Meningococci bind fH via fH binding protein (fHbp), a surface-exposed lipoprotein that is subdivided into three variant families based on one classification scheme. Chimeric proteins that comprise contiguous domains of fH fused to murine Fc were used to localize the binding site for all three fHbp variants on fH to short consensus repeat 6 (SCR 6). As expected, fH-like protein 1 (FHL-1), which contains fH SCR 6, also bound to fHbp-expressing meningococci. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we identified histidine 337 and histidine 371 in SCR 6 as important for binding to fHbp. These findings may provide the molecular basis for recent observations that demonstrated human-specific fH binding to meningococci. Differences in the interactions of fHbp variants with SCR 6 were evident. Gonococci bind fH via their porin (Por) molecules (PorB.1A or PorB.1B); sialylation of lipooligosaccharide enhances fH binding. Both sialylated PorB.1B- and (unsialylated) PorB.1A-bearing gonococci bind fH through SCR 18 to 20; PorB.1A can also bind SCR 6, but only weakly, as evidenced by a low level of binding of FHL-1 relative to that of fH. Using isogenic strains expressing either meningococcal fHbp or gonococcal PorB.1B, we discovered that strains expressing gonococcal PorB.1B in the presence of sialylated lipooligosaccharide bound more fH, more effectively limited C3 deposition, and were more serum resistant than their isogenic counterparts expressing fHbp. Differences in fH binding to these two related pathogens may be important for modulating their individual responses to host immune attack.
Vaccines play a vital role in modern medicine. The development of novel vaccines for emerging and resistant pathogens has been aided in recent years by the use of novel adjuvants in subunit vaccines. A deeper understanding of the molecular pathways behind adjuvanticity is required to better select immunostimulatory molecules for use in individual vaccines. To this end, we have undertaken a study of the essential signaling pathways involved in the innate and adaptive immune responses to the Neisseria meningitidis outer membrane protein Porin B (PorB). We have previously demonstrated that PorB is an agonist of Toll-Like Receptor 2 (TLR2) and acts as an adjuvant in vaccines for protein, carbohydrate and lipopolysaccharide antigens using murine models. Here we demonstrate NFκB translocation following stimulation with PorB only occurs in the presence of TLR2. IL-6 and TNF-α secretion was shown to be MAPK dependent. Surface expression of activation markers on macrophages, including CD40, CD69, and CD86, was increased following PorB stimulation in vitro. Interestingly, some upregulation of CD54 and CD69 was still observed in macrophages obtained from TLR2 KO mice, indicating a possible non-TLR2 mediated activation pathway induced by PorB. In a murine vaccination model, using ovalbumin as the antigen and PorB as the adjuvant, a decreased antigen-specific IgG production was observed in TLR2 KO mice; adjuvant-dependent increased IgG production was entirely ablated in MyD88 KO mice. These observations demonstrate the importance of the above pathways to the adjuvant activity of PorB. The potential TLR2 independent effect is currently being explored.
Because the Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B (NMSB) capsule is poorly immunogenic in humans, immunization strategies have focused on noncapsular antigens. Both PorA and to a lesser extent PorB are noncapsular protein antigens capable of inducing protective bactericidal antibodies, and vaccines based on the outer membrane protein (OMP) components of serogroup B meningococci have been shown to be effective in clinical trials. Multiple PorA antigens seem to be needed to prevent endemic meningococcal disease around the world, and a hexavalent PorA-based meningococcal vaccine has recently been developed in The Netherlands. To evaluate the distribution of NMSB PorA and PorB antigens in the United States, serosubtyping and serotyping were done on 444 NMSB strains isolated in the active surveillance areas of the United States (total population, 32 million) during the period 1992 to 1998. A total of 244 strains were isolated from sporadic cases of meningococcal disease, and 200 strains were isolated from an epidemic in Oregon. A panel of 16 mouse monoclonal antibodies reactive with PorA and 15 monoclonal antibodies reactive with PorB were used. Among the NMSB isolates obtained from sporadic cases, the most prevalent serosubtypes were P1.7,16 (14.3%), P1.19,15 (9.8%), P1.7,1 (8.6%), P1.5,2 (7.8%), P1.22a, 14 (7.8%), and P1.14 (5.3%) and the most prevalent serotypes were 4,7 (27.5%), 15 (16%), 14 (8.6%), 10 (6.1%), 1 (4.9%), and 2a (3.7%). A multivalent PorA-based OMP vaccine aimed at the six most prevalent serosubtypes could have targeted about half of the sporadic cases of NMSB disease that occurred between 1992 and 1998 in the surveillance areas. Twenty serosubtypes would have had to be included in a multivalent vaccine to achieve 80% coverage of strains causing sporadic disease. The relatively large number of isolates that did not react with murine monoclonal antibodies indicates that DNA sequence-based variable region typing of NMSB will be necessary to provide precise information on the distribution and diversity of PorA antigens and correlation with nonserosubtypeable isolates. The high degree of variability observed in the PorA and PorB proteins of NMSB in the United States suggests that vaccine strategies not based on OMPs should be further investigated.
Infections with Neisseria meningitidis are characterized by life-threatening meningitis and septicemia. The meningococcal porin proteins from serogroup B meningococci have been identified as candidates for inclusion in vaccines to prevent such infections. In this study, we investigated the vaccine potential of the PorB porin protein free of other meningococcal components. The porB gene from a strain of Neisseria meningitidis expressing the class 3 outer membrane porin protein (PorB3) was cloned into the pRSETB vector, and the protein was expressed at high levels in a heterologous host Escherichia coli. The recombinant protein was purified to homogeneity by affinity chromatography and used for immunization after incorporation into liposomes and into micelles composed either of zwitterionic detergent or nondetergent sulfobetaine. The immunogenicity of these preparations was compared to recombinant PorB protein adsorbed to Al(OH)3 adjuvant as a control. Although sera raised against the protein adsorbed to Al(OH)3 reacted with the purified recombinant protein, sera raised against liposomes and micelles showed greater activity with native protein, as measured by enzyme immunoassay with outer membranes and by whole-cell immunofluorescence. Reactivity with native protein was considerably enhanced by incorporation of the adjuvant monophosphoryl lipid A into the liposome or micelle preparations. Recognition of the native protein was in a serotype-specific manner and was associated with the ability of the antisera to promote high levels of serotype-specific complement-mediated killing of meningococci. These results demonstrate that the PorB protein should be considered as a component of a vaccine designed to prevent serogroup B meningococcal infection.
The human airway epithelium is constantly exposed to microbial products from colonizing organisms. Regulation of Toll-like receptor (TLR) expression and specific interactions with bacterial ligands is thought to mitigate exacerbation of inflammatory processes induced by the commensal flora in these cells. The genus Neisseria comprises pathogenic and commensal organisms that colonize the human nasopharynx. Neisseria lactamica is not associated with disease, but N. meningitidis occasionally invades the host, causing meningococcal disease and septicemia. Upon colonization of the airway epithelium, specific host cell receptors interact with numerous Neisseria components, including the PorB porin, at the immediate bacterial-host cell interface. This major outer membrane protein is expressed by all Neisseria strains, regardless of pathogenicity, but its amino acid sequence varies among strains, particularly in the surface-exposed regions. The interaction of Neisseria PorB with TLR2 is essential for driving TLR2/TLR1-dependent cellular responses and is thought to occur via the porin's surface-exposed loop regions. Our studies show that N. lactamica PorB is a TLR2 ligand but its binding specificity for TLR2 is different from that of meningococcal PorB. Furthermore, N. lactamica PorB is a poor inducer of proinflammatory mediators and of TLR2 expression in human airway epithelial cells. These effects are reproduced by whole N. lactamica organisms. Since the responsiveness of human airway epithelial cells to colonizing bacteria is in part regulated via TLR2 expression and signaling, commensal organisms such as N. lactamica would benefit from expressing a product that induces low TLR2-dependent local inflammation, likely delaying or avoiding clearance by the host.
Neisserial porins are potent immune adjuvants and have been demonstrated to stimulate and induce the activation of human and murine B lymphocytes. Their immunopotentiating ability is due largely to the upregulation of the surface expression of the costimulatory ligand CD86 (B7-2) on B cells and other antigen-presenting cells. Porin-induced activation is dependent on the innate immune pattern recognition receptor Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2). These data have led us to investigate the signal transduction events induced by PorB from Neisseria meningitidis and then, using inhibitors of these pathways, to establish the mechanism by which this bacterial major outer membrane protein induces CD86 upregulation and the proliferation of murine B cells. PorB was able to induce (i) protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) activity, (ii) the phosphorylation of Erk1 and Erk2, and (iii) IκB-α phosphorylation, leading to NF-κB nuclear translocation in B cells in a TLR2-dependent manner. PorB-induced NF-κB nuclear translocation was not dependent on either PTK or Erk1/2 activities. However, B-cell proliferation and the induction of increased surface expression of CD86 by PorB were dependent on PTK activity and not Erk1/2 activation. In conclusion, PorB acts through TLR2 as a B-cell mitogen, triggering tyrosine phosphorylation of various cellular proteins that are involved in proliferation and CD86 expression, as well as the phosphorylation of Erk1/2, which is not necessary for CD86 upregulation or the proliferation of B cells.
The porin proteins of the pathogenic Neisseria species, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis, are important as serotyping antigens, putative vaccine components, and for their proposed role in the intracellular colonization of humans. A three-dimensional structural homology model for Neisseria porins was generated from Escherichia coli porin structures and N. meningitidis PorA and PorB sequences. The Neisseria sequences were readily assembled into the 16-strand β-barrel fold characteristic of porins, despite relatively low sequence identity with the Escherichia proteins. The model provided information on the spatial relationships of variable regions of peptide sequences in the PorA and PorB trimers and insights relevant to the use of these proteins in vaccines. The nucleotide sequences of the porin genes from a number of other Neisseria species were obtained by PCR direct sequencing and from GenBank. Alignment and analysis of all available Neisseria porin sequences by use of the structurally conserved regions derived from the PorA and PorB structural models resulted in the recovery of an improved phylogenetic signal. Phylogenetic analyses were consistent with an important role for horizontal genetic exchange in the emergence of different porin classes and confirmed the close evolutionary relationships of the porins from N. meningitidis, N. gonorrhoeae, Neisseria lactamica, and Neisseria polysaccharea. Only members of this group contained three conserved lysine residues which form a potential GTP binding site implicated in pathogenesis. The model placed these residues on the inside of the pore, in close proximity, consistent with their role in regulating pore function when inserted into host cells.
The porin gene (porB) of Neisseria gonorrhoeae encodes the major outer membrane protein identified as PI or Por. To examine the utility of por variable-region (VR) typing, porB from 206 isolates was characterized by using oligonucleotide probes in a checkerboard hybridization assay that identifies the sequence types of five VRs of both PIA and PIB porB alleles. The strains represented temporally and geographically distinct isolates, isolates from a large cluster, epidemiologically linked partner isolates, and a collection of strains from disseminated gonococcal infections. By using rigorous epidemiologic criteria for transmission of infection between sex partners, por VR typing was more discriminatory than serovar typing in classifying isolates from both members of 43 epidemiologically linked pairs: 39 of 43 pairs were classified as coinciding by por VR typing compared to 43 of 43 by serovar determination (P = 0.058). porB sequence data confirmed the accuracy of the por VR method. Relationships between VR type and serovar typing monoclonal antibodies were observed for all six PIB and three of six PIA antibodies. por VR typing is a molecular tool that appears to have broad applicability. This method can be adapted to a wide range of technologies from simple hybridization to microarray and may allow for typing from noncultured clinical specimens.
The periplasmic chaperones Skp, SurA, and DegP are implicated in the biogenesis of outer membrane proteins (OMPs) in Escherichia coli. Here, we investigated whether these chaperones exert similar functions in Neisseria meningitidis. Although N. meningitidis does not contain a homolog of the protease/chaperone DegP, it does possess a homolog of another E. coli protein, DegQ, which can functionally replace DegP when overproduced. Hence, we examined whether in N. meningitidis, DegQ acts as a functional homolog of DegP. Single skp, surA, and degQ mutants were easily obtained, showing that none of these chaperones is essential in N. meningitidis. Furthermore, all combinations of double mutants were generated and no synthetic lethality was observed. The absence of SurA or DegQ did not affect OMP biogenesis. In contrast, the absence of Skp resulted in severely lower levels of the porins PorA and PorB but not of other OMPs. These decreased levels were not due to proteolytic activity of DegQ, since porin levels remained low in a skp degQ double mutant, indicating that neisserial DegQ is not a functional homolog of E. coli DegP. The absence of Skp resulted in lower expression of the porB gene, as shown by using a PporB-lacZ fusion. We found no cross-species complementation when Skp of E. coli or N. meningitidis was heterologously expressed in skp mutants, indicating that Skp functions in a species-specific manner. Our results demonstrate an important role for Skp but not for SurA or DegQ in OMP biogenesis in N. meningitidis.
We have analyzed human T-cell responses in parallel with serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody levels after systemic vaccination with the Norwegian group B Neisseria meningitidis outer membrane vesicle (OMV) vaccine. Ten adult volunteers, with no or very low levels of serum IgG antibodies against meningococci, received three doses intramuscularly of the OMV vaccine (at weeks 0, 6, and 46). T-cell proliferation against the OMV vaccine, purified outer membrane proteins (PorA and PorB), and control antigens (Mycobacterium bovis BCG vaccine and tetanus toxoid) was measured by thymidine incorporation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells before and after vaccination. The results showed that vaccination with OMV elicits strong primary and booster T-cell responses specific to OMV as well as the PorA (class 1) protein and significant, but markedly lower, responses against the PorB (class 3) protein. The median responses to OMV and PorA were 26 and 16 times the prevaccination levels, respectively. Most of the vaccinees showed low T-cell responses against OMV and PorA before vaccination, and the maximum T-cell responses to all vaccine antigens were usually obtained after the second vaccine dose. We found a positive correlation between T-cell responses and anti-OMV IgG antibody levels (r = 0.50, P < 0.0001, for OMV and PorA). In addition, we observed a progressive increase in the percentage of CD45R0+ (memory) CD4-positive T cells (P = 0.002). In conclusion, we have shown that the Norwegian OMV vaccine against meningococcal B disease induced antigen-specific T-cell responses, kinetically accompanied by serum IgG responses, and that vaccination increased the proportion of memory T-helper cells.
A set of isogenic strains was constructed from the meningococcal reference strain H44/76 (B:15:P1.7,16) which differed only in their outer membrane protein (OMP) compositions. First, three isogenic strains lacking the expression of either class 3 (PorB) or class 4 (RmpM) OMP or both were obtained. Second, three isogenic class 1 OMP loop-deficient strains of H44/76 lacking the predicted loop 1 or 4 or both of class 1 OMP (PorA) were obtained. Third, three isogenic class 1 OMP strains which differed by point mutations in the predicted loop 4 of subtype P1.16 were constructed. Strains were constructed through transformation with gene constructs made in Escherichia coli and their homologous recombination into the meningococcal chromosome. This study describes the contribution of one of the six class 1 OMPs, PorA P1.7,16, in the development of bactericidal antibodies after a single immunization of adult volunteers with 50 or 100 micrograms of protein within a hexavalent PorA outer membrane vesicle vaccine. PorA-, PorB-, and RpmM-deficient isogenic strains were used to define the human immune response against PorA. The loop-deficient isogenic strains were used to define the contribution of loops 1 and 4 of PorA in the development of bactericidal anti-PorA antibodies. The isogenic strains carrying a point mutation in loop 4 were used to study the cross-reactivity of the induced bactericidal antibodies against target strains showing microheterogeneity. The results indicate that a single immunization with the hexavalent PorA vaccine induced a dose-dependent bactericidal immune response, which is directed mainly against PorA. The epitope specificity of antibodies is directed mostly against loop 1, although loop 4 and as-yet-unidentified epitopes of PorA P1.7,16 are also involved.
The current serological typing scheme for Neisseria meningitidis is not comprehensive; a proportion of isolates are not serotypeable. DNA sequence analysis and predicted amino acid sequences were used to characterize the structures of variable-region (VR) epitopes on N. meningitidis PorB proteins (PorB VR typing). Twenty-six porB gene sequences were obtained from GenBank and aligned with 41 new sequences. Primary amino acid structures predicted from those genes were grouped into 30 VR families of related variants that displayed at least 60% similarity. We correlated VR families with monoclonal antibody (MAb) reactivities, establishing a relationship between VR families and epitope locations for 15 serotype-defining MAbs. The current panel of serotype-defining MAbs underestimates by at least 50% the PorB VR variability because reagents for several major VR families are lacking or because a number of VR variants within some families are not recognized by serotype-defining MAbs. These difficulties, also reported for serosubtyping based on the PorA protein, are shown as inconsistent results between serological and sequence analyses, leading to inaccurate strain identification and incomplete epidemiological data. The information from this study enabled the expansion of the panel of MAbs currently available for serotyping, by including MAbs of previously undetermined specificities. Use of the expanded serotype panel enabled us to improve the sensitivity of serotyping by resolving a number of formerly nonserotypeable strains. In most cases, this information can be used to predict the VR family placement of unknown PorB proteins without sequencing the entire porB gene. PorB VR typing complements serotyping, and a combination of both techniques may be used for full characterization of meningococcal strains. The present work represents the most complete and integrated data set of PorB VR sequences and MAb reactivities of serogroup B and C meningococci produced to date.
Variations in class 2/3 (PorB) proteins form the basis for meningococcal serotyping. Antibodies against these proteins are bactericidal, making serotyping results useful not only for epidemiological surveillance of meningococcal disease but also for identifying potential vaccine components. A total of 20 to 60% of meningococcal B and C isolates from any given population are nontypeable (NT) using a panel of monoclonal antibodies. To analyze the mechanisms responsible for the nonserotypeability characteristic in Neisseria meningitidis, we (i) established the nucleotide sequences of porB gene in 146 meningococcal strains (95 not recognized by the serotyping panel), (ii) identified 18 new allelic variants of the porB gene, (iii) correlated allelic variants with serotypes, (iv) suggest the nontypeability characteristic in those 95 NT strains, and (v) reject the possibility of variation in the levels of PorB expression.
Antibody specificities of pre- and postvaccination serum samples from 40 (53%) teenagers who received three doses of the Norwegian Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B vaccine (B:15:P1.7,16) during a previous trial in Iceland (Perkins et al., J. Infect. Dis. 177:683-691, 1998) were analyzed with serum bactericidal activity (SBA) and immunoblotting assays with reference and isogenic meningococcal H44/76 vaccine strains. The H44/76 variants demonstrated significant vaccine-induced SBA to P1.7,16 PorA and Opc but not to PorB, Opa5.5, and a heterologous PorA protein. On blots, immunoglobulin G levels to all these proteins increased significantly after vaccination. Measurement of SBA to the two main variable regions (P1.7 and P1.16) on the P1.7,16 PorA with PorA deletion mutants revealed significantly higher activity to the P1.7,− and P1.−,16 mutants compared to the P1.7,16 strain, indicating exposure of new accessible epitopes. Only 12 (30%) serum samples showed distinct decreases with these or the P1.−,− mutant, with most samples containing SBA to the P1.7 and P1.16 combination. In contrast, P1.16-specific antibodies were mainly found on blots. Thirteen of the vaccinees (32.5%) were carriers of meningococci at the time of the third dose, of whom four (30.8%) harbored strains of the ET-5 complex. Carriage of P1.15 strains was generally reflected in ≥4-fold increases in SBA and distinct immunoglobulin G binding to the P1.19,15 PorA on blots. Although vaccination did not elicit bactericidal activity to the serotype 15 PorB, most carriers of serotype 15 strains showed ≥4-fold increases in SBA to this antigen.
The capsular polysaccharide of Neisseria meningitidis group B is an autoantigen, whereas noncapsular antigens are highly variable. These factors present formidable challenges for development of a broadly protective and safe group B vaccine. Mice and guinea pigs were sequentially immunized with three doses of micovesicles or outer membrane vesicles prepared from three meningococcal strains that were each antigenically heterologous with respect to the two major porin proteins, PorA and PorB, and the group capsular polysaccharide. The resulting antisera conferred passive protection against meningococcal group B bacteremia in infant rats and elicited complement-mediated bactericidal activity against genetically diverse group B strains that were either homologous or heterologous with respect to PorA of the strains used to prepare the vaccine. By using knockout strains, a portion of the bactericidal antibody was directed against the highly conserved protein, neisserial surface protein A (NspA). Further, an anti-NspA monoclonal antibody elicited by the sequential immunization was highly bactericidal against strains that were previously shown to be resistant to bacteriolysis by anti-NspA antibodies produced by immunization with recombinant NspA. Sequential immunization with heterologous vesicle preparations offers a novel approach to eliciting broadly protective immunity against N. meningitidis strains. An NspA-based vaccine prepared from protein expressed by Neisseria also may be more effective than the corresponding recombinant protein made in Escherichia coli.
Loss of phosphoethanolamine (PEA) from the lipid A of gonococcal strain FA19 results in increased sensitivity to killing by the classical pathway of complement. Here we demonstrate that loss of PEA from lipid A diminishes binding of the complement regulatory protein C4b binding protein (C4BP) to the FA19 porin B (PorB), providing a molecular basis to explain the susceptibility of an lptA null strain of FA19 to killing by normal human serum (NHS). Loss of PEA from lipid A in three additional gonococcal strains that expressed diverse PorB molecules also resulted in decreased C4BP binding, increased deposition of C4b, and increased susceptibility to killing by NHS. Complementation of lptA null strains with lptA restored C4BP binding, decreased C4b deposition, and increased resistance to killing by NHS. These effects of lipid A PEA on C4BP binding to gonococcal PorB and serum resistance were simulated when gonococcal PorB was expressed in a meningococcal background. Loss of PEA from lipid A also affected binding of the alternative pathway regulator factor H (fH) to PorB of some strains. For instance, PorB molecules of lptA null mutants of strains 252 and 1291 bound less fH than those of their parent strains when lipooligosaccharide (LOS) was sialylated, whereas PorB molecules of lptA null mutants of strains FA1090 and 273 retained the ability to bind fH when LOS was sialylated. These data indicate that replacement of lipid A with PEA alters binding of C4BP and fH to PorB and contributes to the ability of gonococci to resist complement-mediated killing.
The PorA protein from Neisseria meningitidis, a potential vaccine candidate, induces human bactericidal antibodies which are serosubtype specific. We developed a hexavalent PorA outer membrane vesicle vaccine based on reference strain H44/76. This vaccine contains the six most prevalent PorA serosubtypes as found in many countries. We previously reported on the immune responses of 20 adult volunteers after a single immunization with this vaccine. In this study, the B- and T-cell responses in three adult volunteers were studied after three consecutive immunizations (0, 2, and 11 months). The first immunization induced a strong B-cell response resulting in high immunoglobulin G levels in an outer membrane vesicle enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. At least a fourfold increase in bactericidal activity was observed against the majority (four to six) of the vaccine antigens compared to prevaccination titers. Immunodominance was observed for one or two of the PorAs in the bactericidal assay with a set of six isogenic H44/76-derived PorA target strains. These strains carry the individual PorAs as present in the vaccine. The second and third immunizations did not induce a further increase in the immune responses. A decline in time with respect to PorA-specific antibodies was observed after each immunization. These observations were reflected by the T-cell proliferation responses. Two additional sets of isogenic H44/76-derived mutant strains were used to study the specificity and/or cross-reactivity of the induced bactericidal antibodies. These target strains differ only in expressing mutant family variants of either PorA P1.7,16 or P1.5,10, both present in the PorA vesicle vaccine. The bactericidal antibody responses found were directed predominantly against the P1.7 (loop 1 of P1.7,16) and the P1.10 (loop 4 of P1.5,10) epitopes. This indicates that different portions of PorA were involved in the induction of bactericidal antibodies depending upon the PorA serosubtype.
One potential vaccine strategy in the fight against meningococcal disease involves the exploitation of outer-membrane components of Neisseria lactamica, a commensal bacterium closely related to the meningococcus, Neisseria meningitidis. Although N. lactamica shares many surface structures with the meningococcus, little is known about the antigenic diversity of this commensal bacterium or the antigenic relationships between N. lactamica and N. meningitidis. Here, the N. lactamica porin protein (Por) was examined and compared to the related PorB antigens of N. meningitidis, to investigate potential involvement in anti-meningococcal immunity. Relationships among porin sequences were determined using distance-based methods and FST, and maximum-likelihood analyses were used to compare the selection pressures acting on the encoded proteins. These analyses demonstrated that the N. lactamica porin was less diverse than meningococcal PorB and although it was subject to positive selection, this was not as strong as the positive selection pressures acting on the meningococcal porin. In addition, the N. lactamica porin gene sequences and the protein sequences of the loop regions predicted to be exposed to the human immune system were dissimilar to the corresponding sequences in the meningococcus. This suggests that N. lactamica Por, contrary to previous suggestions, may have limited involvement in the development of natural immunity to meningococcal disease and might not be effective as a meningococcal vaccine component.
Porins from pathogenic Neisseriae are among several bacterial products with immune adjuvant activity. N. meningitidis (Nme) PorB, has been shown to induce immune cells activation in a TLR2-dependent manner and acts as a vaccine immune adjuvant. The PorB porin from Neisseria lactamica (Nlac), a common nasopharyngeal commensal shares significant structural and functional similarities with Nme PorB. In this work we ask whether the immune adjuvant ability of porins from pathogenic Neisserial strains is a characteristic shared with porins from non-pathogenic Neisserial species or whether it is unique for bacterial products derived from microorganisms capable of inducing inflammation and disease. We evaluate the potential immune adjuvant effect of Nlac PorB in mice using ovalbumin (OVA) as a prototype antigen. Immunization with Nlac PorB/OVA induced high OVA-specific IgG and IgM titers compared to OVA alone, similar to other adjuvants such as Nme PorB and alum. High titers of IgG1 and IgG2b were detected as well as production of IL-4, IL-10, IL-12 and INF-γ in response to Nlac PorB, consistent with induction of both a Th1-type and a Th2-type immune response. OVA-specific proliferation was also determined in splenocytes from Nlac PorB/OVA immunized mice. In addition, B cell activation in vitro and cytokine production in response to Nlac PorB was found to be mediated by TLR2, in a similar manner to Nme PorB.
Adjuvant; immune stimulation; commensal bacteria; porin
Serogroup A Neisseria meningitidis has repeatedly caused epidemics of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in developing nations since the 1960s. The present study is the first detailed study of serogroup A bacteria isolated in Canada.
Thirty-four serogroup A meningococcal isolates collected from individuals with IMD in Canada between 1979 and 2006 were characterized by serology and multilocus sequence typing of seven housekeeping enzyme genes and genes encoding three outer membrane protein antigens.
Isolates were assigned to either the sequence type (ST)-1 or the ST-5 clonal complex. Clones within the ST-1 complex were recovered between 1979 and 1992, while clones of the ST-5 complex were isolated between 1987 and 2006; respectively, they accounted for 70.6% and 29.4% of all isolates studied. Isolates of the ST-1 complex were characterized by serosubtype antigen P1.3 or P1.3,6 with PorB allele 60 (serotype 4) and FetA sequence F5-1, while isolates of the ST-5 complex were characterized by serosubtype antigen P1.9 with PorB allele 47 (also serotype 4) and FetA sequence F3-1.
The Canadian serogroup A IMD isolates likely originated in travellers returning from hyperendemic or epidemic areas of the globe where serogroup A bacteria circulate. Although the Canadian cases of serogroup A IMD were caused by clones known to have caused epidemics in developing countries, disease incidence remained low in Canada.
Canada; Invasive meningococcal disease; Neisseria meningitides; Serogroup A