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1.  Comparison of Two Multilocus Sequence Based Genotyping Schemes for Leptospira Species 
Several sequence based genotyping schemes have been developed for Leptospira spp. The objective of this study was to genotype a collection of clinical and reference isolates using the two most commonly used schemes and compare and contrast the results.
Methods and Findings
A total of 48 isolates consisting of L. interrogans (n = 40) and L. kirschneri (n = 8) were typed by the 7 locus MLST scheme described by Thaipadungpanit et al., and the 6 locus genotyping scheme described by Ahmed et al., (termed 7L and 6L, respectively). Two L. interrogans isolates were not typed using 6L because of a deletion of three nucleotides in lipL32. The remaining 46 isolates were resolved into 21 sequence types (STs) by 7L, and 30 genotypes by 6L. Overall nucleotide diversity (based on concatenated sequence) was 3.6% and 2.3% for 7L and 6L, respectively. The D value (discriminatory ability) of 7L and 6L were comparable, i.e. 92.0 (95% CI 87.5–96.5) vs. 93.5 (95% CI 88.6–98.4). The dN/dS ratios calculated for each locus indicated that none were under positive selection. Neighbor joining trees were reconstructed based on the concatenated sequences for each scheme. Both trees showed two distinct groups corresponding to L. interrogans and L. kirschneri, and both identified two clones containing 10 and 7 clinical isolates, respectively. There were six instances in which 6L split single STs as defined by 7L into closely related clusters. We noted two discrepancies between the trees in which the genetic relatedness between two pairs of strains were more closely related by 7L than by 6L.
This genetic analysis indicates that the two schemes are comparable. We discuss their practical advantages and disadvantages.
Author Summary
Two independent multilocus sequence based genotyping schemes (denoted here as 7L and 6L for schemes with 7 and 6 loci, respectively) are in use for Leptospira spp., which has led to uncertainty as to which should be adopted by the scientific community. The purpose of this study was to apply the two schemes to a single collection of pathogenic Leptospira, evaluate their performance, and describe the practical advantages and disadvantages of each scheme. We used a variety of phylogenetic approaches to compare the output data and found that the two schemes gave very similar results. 7L has the advantage that it is a conventional multi-locus sequencing typing (MLST) scheme based on housekeeping genes and is supported by a publically accessible database by which genotypes can be readily assigned as known or new sequence types by any investigator, but is currently only applicable to L. interrogans and L. kirschneri. Conversely, 6L can be applied to all pathogenic Leptospira spp., but is not a conventional MLST scheme by design and is not available online. 6L sequences from 271 strains have been released into the public domain, and phylogenetic analysis of new sequences using this scheme requires their download and offline analysis.
PMCID: PMC3210738  PMID: 22087342
2.  Identification of immunodominant antigens in canine leptospirosis by Multi-Antigen Print ImmunoAssay (MAPIA) 
BMC Veterinary Research  2014;10(1):288.
The microscopic agglutination test (MAT), the standard method for serological diagnosis of leptospirosis, may present limitations regarding its sensitivity. Current studies suggest that Leptospira immunoglobulin-like (Lig) proteins and LipL32 are of particular interest as serodiagnostic markers since they are present only in pathogenic species of the Leptospira genus. The purpose of this study was to identify leptospiral immunodominant proteins that are recognized by canine sera from diseased dogs.
A total of 109 dogs were studied, including seroreactive dogs (MAT ≥800) and dogs with no seroreactivity detectable by MAT. Eight recombinant fragments (31–70 kDa) of pathogenic Leptospira were tested for their use as diagnostic markers for canine leptospirosis using the Multi-antigen Print Immunoassay (MAPIA) platform: LigB [582-947aa] from L. interrogans serovar Pomona, L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni and L. kirschneri serovar Gryppotyphosa, LigB [131-649aa] from L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni, L. interrogans serovar Canicola and L. kirschneri serovar Gryppotyphosa, LigA [625-1224aa] L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni and LipL32 from L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni. The data were analyzed and ROC curves were generated. Altogether, LigB [131-649aa] L. interrogans Canicola, LigB [131-649aa] L. kirschneri Gryppotyphosa and LipL32 L. interrogans Copenhageni showed best accuracy (AUC = 0.826 to 0.869), with 70% specificity and sensitivity ranging from 89% to 95%.
These results reinforce their potential as diagnostic candidates for the development of new methods for the serological diagnosis of canine leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC4269070  PMID: 25466383
Leptospirosis; Dogs; MAPIA; LipL32; Lig proteins
3.  Characterization of Leptospiral Outer Membrane Lipoprotein LipL36: Downregulation Associated with Late-Log-Phase Growth and Mammalian Infection 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(4):1579-1587.
We report the cloning of the gene encoding a 36-kDa leptospiral outer membrane lipoprotein, designated LipL36. We obtained the N-terminal amino acid sequence of a staphylococcal V8 proteolytic-digest fragment in order to design an oligonucleotide probe. A Lambda-Zap II library containing EcoRI fragments of Leptospira kirschneri DNA was screened, and a 2.3-kb DNA fragment which contained the entire structural lipL36 gene was identified. Several lines of evidence indicate that LipL36 is lipid modified in a manner similar to that of LipL41, a leptospiral outer membrane lipoprotein we described in a previous study (E. S. Shang, T. A. Summers, and D. A. Haake, Infect. Immun. 64:2322–2330, 1996). The deduced amino acid sequence of LipL36 would constitute a 364-amino-acid polypeptide with a 20-amino-acid signal peptide, followed by an L-X-Y-C lipoprotein signal peptidase cleavage site. LipL36 is solubilized by Triton X-114 extraction of L. kirschneri; phase separation results in partitioning of LipL36 exclusively into the hydrophobic, detergent phase. LipL36 is intrinsically labeled during incubation of L. kirschneri in media containing [3H]palmitate. Processing of LipL36 is inhibited by globomycin, a selective inhibitor of lipoprotein signal peptidase. After processing, LipL36 is exported to the outer membrane along with LipL41 and lipopolysaccharide. Unlike LipL41, there appears to be differential expression of LipL36. In early-log-phase cultures, LipL36 is one of the most abundant L. kirschneri proteins. However, LipL36 levels drop considerably beginning in mid-log phase. LipL36 expression in vivo was evaluated by examining the humoral immune response to leptospiral antigens in the hamster model of leptospirosis. Hamsters surviving challenge with culture-adapted virulent L. kirschneri generate a strong antibody response to LipL36. In contrast, sera from hamsters surviving challenge with host-adapted L. kirschneri do not recognize LipL36. These findings suggest that LipL36 expression is downregulated during mammalian infection, providing a marker for studying the mechanisms by which pathogenic Leptospira species adapt to the host environment.
PMCID: PMC108091  PMID: 9529084
4.  A Single Multilocus Sequence Typing (MLST) Scheme for Seven Pathogenic Leptospira Species 
The available Leptospira multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme supported by a MLST website is limited to L. interrogans and L. kirschneri. Our aim was to broaden the utility of this scheme to incorporate a total of seven pathogenic species.
Methodology and Findings
We modified the existing scheme by replacing one of the seven MLST loci (fadD was changed to caiB), as the former gene did not appear to be present in some pathogenic species. Comparison of the original and modified schemes using data for L. interrogans and L. kirschneri demonstrated that the discriminatory power of the two schemes was not significantly different. The modified scheme was used to further characterize 325 isolates (L. alexanderi [n = 5], L. borgpetersenii [n = 34], L. interrogans [n = 222], L. kirschneri [n = 29], L. noguchii [n = 9], L. santarosai [n = 10], and L. weilii [n = 16]). Phylogenetic analysis using concatenated sequences of the 7 loci demonstrated that each species corresponded to a discrete clade, and that no strains were misclassified at the species level. Comparison between genotype and serovar was possible for 254 isolates. Of the 31 sequence types (STs) represented by at least two isolates, 18 STs included isolates assigned to two or three different serovars. Conversely, 14 serovars were identified that contained between 2 to 10 different STs. New observations were made on the global phylogeography of Leptospira spp., and the utility of MLST in making associations between human disease and specific maintenance hosts was demonstrated.
The new MLST scheme, supported by an updated MLST website, allows the characterization and species assignment of isolates of the seven major pathogenic species associated with leptospirosis.
Author Summary
Leptospirosis is a common zoonotic disease worldwide. Genotyping of the causative organisms provides important insights into disease transmission and informs preventive strategies and vaccine development. Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) is the most widespread genotyping methodology for bacterial pathogens, but the Leptospira scheme supported by a public MLST database is currently only applicable to L. interrogans and L. kirschneri. The purpose of this study was to extend the scheme to a total of seven pathogenic Leptospira species. This was achieved through the development of a modified scheme in which one of the seven MLST loci was replaced, together with newly designed primers for the remaining 6 loci. Comparison of the original and modified scheme demonstrated that they were very similar, hence sequence type (ST) assignments were largely carried over to the modified scheme. Phylogenetic trees reconstructed from concatenated sequences of the seven loci of the modified scheme demonstrated perfect classification of isolates into seven pathogenic species, which resided in clearly distinct phylogenetic clusters. Congruence was low between STs and serovars. The MLST scheme was used to gain new insights into the population genetic structure of Leptospira species associated with clinical disease and maintenance hosts in Asia.
PMCID: PMC3554523  PMID: 23359622
5.  LipL21 Is a Novel Surface-Exposed Lipoprotein of Pathogenic Leptospira Species  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(5):2414-2421.
Leptospira is the etiologic agent of leptospirosis, a bacterial zoonosis distributed worldwide. Leptospiral lipopolysaccharide is a protective immunogen, but the extensive serological diversity of leptospires has inspired a search for conserved outer membrane proteins (OMPs) that may stimulate heterologous immunity. Previously, a global analysis of leptospiral OMPs (P. A. Cullen, S. J. Cordwell, D. M. Bulach, D. A. Haake, and B. Adler, Infect. Immun. 70:2311-2318, 2002) identified pL21, a novel 21-kDa protein that is the second most abundant constituent of the Leptospira interrogans serovar Lai outer membrane proteome. In this study, we identified the gene encoding pL21 and found it to encode a putative lipoprotein; accordingly, the protein was renamed LipL21. Southern hybridization analysis revealed the presence of lipL21 in all of the pathogenic species but in none of the saprophytic species examined. Alignment of the LipL21 sequence from six strains of Leptospira revealed 96 to 100% identity. When specific polyclonal antisera to recombinant LipL21 were used, LipL21 was isolated together with other known leptospiral OMPs by both Triton X-114 extraction and sucrose density gradient membrane fractionation. All nine strains of pathogenic leptospires investigated by Western blotting, whether culture attenuated or virulent, were found to express LipL21. In contrast, the expression of LipL21 or an antigenically related protein could not be detected in nonpathogenic L. biflexa. Infected hamster sera and two of eight human leptospirosis sera tested were found to react with recombinant LipL21. Native LipL21 was found to incorporate tritiated palmitic acid, consistent with the prediction of a lipoprotein signal peptidase cleavage site. Biotinylation of the leptospiral surface resulted in selective labeling of LipL21 and the previously known OMPs LipL32 and LipL41. These findings show that LipL21 is a surface-exposed, abundant outer membrane lipoprotein that is expressed during infection and conserved among pathogenic Leptospira species.
PMCID: PMC153295  PMID: 12704111
6.  The Characteristics of Ubiquitous and Unique Leptospira Strains from the Collection of Russian Centre for Leptospirosis 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:649034.
Background and Aim. Leptospira, the causal agent of leptospirosis, has been isolated from the environment, patients, and wide spectrum of animals in Russia. However, the genetic diversity of Leptospira in natural and anthropurgic foci was not clearly defined. Methods. The recent MLST scheme was used for the analysis of seven pathogenic species. 454 pyrosequencing technology was the base of the whole genome sequencing (WGS). Results. The most wide spread and prevalent Leptospira species in Russia were L. interrogans, L. kirschneri, and L. borgpetersenii. Five STs, common for Russian strains: 37, 17, 199, 110, and 146, were identified as having a longtime and ubiquitous distribution in various geographic areas. Unexpected properties were revealed for the environmental Leptospira strain Bairam-Ali. WGS of this strain genome suggested that it combined the features of the pathogenic and nonpathogenic strains and may be a reservoir of the natural resistance genes. Results of the comparative analysis of rrs and rpoB genes and MLST loci for different Leptospira species strains and phenotypic and serological properties of the strain Bairam-Ali suggested that it represented separate Leptospira species. Conclusions. Thus, the natural and anthropurgic foci supported ubiquitous Leptospira species and the pool of genes important for bacterial adaptivity to various conditions.
PMCID: PMC4167648  PMID: 25276806
7.  The Leptospiral Major Outer Membrane Protein LipL32 Is a Lipoprotein Expressed during Mammalian Infection 
Infection and Immunity  2000;68(4):2276-2285.
We report the cloning of the gene encoding the 32-kDa lipoprotein, designated LipL32, the most prominent protein in the leptospiral protein profile. We obtained the N-terminal amino acid sequence of a staphylococcal V8 proteolytic-digest fragment to design an oligonucleotide probe. A Lambda-Zap II library containing EcoRI fragments of Leptospira kirschneri DNA was screened, and a 5.0-kb DNA fragment which contained the entire structural lipL32 gene was identified. Several lines of evidence indicate that LipL32 is lipid modified in a manner similar to that of other procaryotic lipoproteins. The deduced amino acid sequence of LipL32 would encode a 272-amino-acid polypeptide with a 19-amino-acid signal peptide, followed by a lipoprotein signal peptidase cleavage site. LipL32 is intrinsically labeled during incubation of L. kirschneri in media containing [3H]palmitate. The linkage of palmitate and the amino-terminal cysteine of LipL32 is acid labile. LipL32 is completely solubilized by Triton X-114 extraction of L. kirschneri; phase separation results in partitioning of LipL32 exclusively into the hydrophobic, detergent phase, indicating that it is a component of the leptospiral outer membrane. CaCl2 (20 mM) must be present during phase separation for recovery of LipL32. LipL32 is expressed not only during cultivation but also during mammalian infection. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated intense LipL32 reactivity with L. kirschneri infecting proximal tubules of hamster kidneys. LipL32 is also a prominent immunogen during human leptospirosis. The sequence and expression of LipL32 is highly conserved among pathogenic Leptospira species. These findings indicate that LipL32 may be important in the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and prevention of leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC97414  PMID: 10722630
8.  Pathogenic Leptospira species express surface-exposed proteins belonging to the bacterial immunoglobulin superfamily 
Molecular microbiology  2003;49(4):929-945.
Proteins with bacterial immunoglobulin-like (Big) domains, such as the Yersinia pseudotuberculosis invasin and Escherichia coli intimin, are surface-expressed proteins that mediate host mammalian cell invasion or attachment. Here, we report the identification and characterization of a new family of Big domain proteins, referred to as Lig (leptospiral Ig-like) proteins, in pathogenic Leptospira. Screening of L. interrogans and L. kirschneri expression libraries with sera from leptospirosis patients identified 13 lambda phage clones that encode tandem repeats of the 90 amino acid Big domain. Two lig genes, designated ligA and ligB, and one pseudo-gene, ligC, were identified. The ligA and ligB genes encode amino-terminal lipoprotein signal peptides followed by 10 or 11 Big domain repeats and, in the case of ligB, a unique carboxy-terminal non-repeat domain. The organization of ligC is similar to that of ligB but contains mutations that disrupt the reading frame. The lig sequences are present in pathogenic but not saprophytic Leptospira species. LigA and LigB are expressed by a variety of virulent leptospiral strains. Loss of Lig protein and RNA transcript expression is correlated with the observed loss of virulence during culture attenuation of pathogenic strains. High-pressure freeze substitution followed by immunocytochemical electron microscopy confirmed that the Lig proteins were localized to the bacterial surface. Immunoblot studies with patient sera found that the Lig proteins are a major antigen recognized during the acute host infection. These observations demonstrate that the Lig proteins are a newly identified surface protein of pathogenic Leptospira, which by analogy to other bacterial immunoglobulin superfamily virulence factors, may play a role in host cell attachment and invasion during leptospiral pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1237129  PMID: 12890019
9.  Direct Detection and Differentiation of Pathogenic Leptospira Species Using a Multi-Gene Targeted Real Time PCR Approach 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112312.
Leptospirosis is a growing public and veterinary health concern caused by pathogenic species of Leptospira. Rapid and reliable laboratory tests for the direct detection of leptospiral infections in animals are in high demand not only to improve diagnosis but also for understanding the epidemiology of the disease. In this work we describe a novel and simple TaqMan-based multi-gene targeted real-time PCR approach able to detect and differentiate Leptospira interrogans, L. kirschneri, L. borgpeteresenii and L. noguchii, which constitute the veterinary most relevant pathogenic species of Leptospira. The method uses sets of species-specific probes, and respective flanking primers, designed from ompL1 and secY gene sequences. To monitor the presence of inhibitors, a duplex amplification assay targeting both the mammal β-actin and the leptospiral lipL32 genes was implemented. The analytical sensitivity of all primer and probe sets was estimated to be <10 genome equivalents (GE) in the reaction mixture. Application of the amplification reactions on genomic DNA from a variety of pathogenic and non-pathogenic Leptospira strains and other non-related bacteria revealed a 100% analytical specificity. Additionally, pathogenic leptospires were successfully detected in five out of 29 tissue samples from animals (Mus spp., Rattus spp., Dolichotis patagonum and Sus domesticus). Two samples were infected with L. borgpetersenii, two with L. interrogans and one with L. kirschneri. The possibility to detect and identify these pathogenic agents to the species level in domestic and wildlife animals reinforces the diagnostic information and will enhance our understanding of the epidemiology of leptopirosis.
PMCID: PMC4232388  PMID: 25398140
10.  Epidemiology of Leptospira Transmitted by Rodents in Southeast Asia 
Leptospirosis is the most common bacterial zoonoses and has been identified as an important emerging global public health problem in Southeast Asia. Rodents are important reservoirs for human leptospirosis, but epidemiological data is lacking.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We sampled rodents living in different habitats from seven localities distributed across Southeast Asia (Thailand, Lao PDR and Cambodia), between 2009 to 2010. Human isolates were also obtained from localities close to where rodents were sampled. The prevalence of Leptospira infection was assessed by real-time PCR using DNA extracted from rodent kidneys, targeting the lipL32 gene. Sequencing rrs and secY genes, and Multi Locus Variable-number Tandem Repeat (VNTR) analyses were performed on DNA extracted from rat kidneys for Leptospira isolates molecular typing. Four species were detected in rodents, L. borgpetersenii (56% of positive samples), L. interrogans (36%), L. kirschneri (3%) and L. weilli (2%), which were identical to human isolates. Mean prevalence in rodents was approximately 7%, and largely varied across localities and habitats, but not between rodent species. The two most abundant Leptospira species displayed different habitat requirements: L. interrogans was linked to humid habitats (rice fields and forests) while L. borgpetersenii was abundant in both humid and dry habitats (non-floodable lands).
L. interrogans and L. borgpetersenii species are widely distributed amongst rodent populations, and strain typing confirmed rodents as reservoirs for human leptospirosis. Differences in habitat requirements for L. interrogans and L. borgpetersenii supported differential transmission modes. In Southeast Asia, human infection risk is not only restricted to activities taking place in wetlands and rice fields as is commonly accepted, but should also include tasks such as forestry work, as well as the hunting and preparation of rodents for consumption, which deserve more attention in future epidemiological studies.
Author Summary
Leptospirosis is the most prevalent bacterial zoonosis worldwide. Rodents are believed to be the main reservoirs of Leptospira, yet little epidemiological research has been conducted on rodents from Southeast Asia. Previous studies suggest that activities which place humans in microenvironments shared by rodents increase the probability of contracting leptospirosis. We therefore investigated the circulation of leptospiral species and strains in rodent communities and human populations in seven localities scattered throughout Southeast Asia; in Thailand, Lao PDR and Cambodia. Molecular typing assays were used to characterize leptospiral species and strains in both rodents and humans, which demonstrated common strains between humans and rodents. Additionally, we observed that the two most abundant leptospiral species; L. borgpetersenii and L. interrogans, have different habitat requirements, which supposes different modes of transmission. Lastly, in Southeast Asia, the risk of leptospiral transmission to humans is not solely limited to wetlands and rice paddy fields, but is also linked to forested areas, and activities such as the hunting and/or preparation of rodents for consumption.
PMCID: PMC4046967  PMID: 24901706
11.  Serodiagnosis of Equine Leptospirosis by Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay Using Four Recombinant Protein Markers 
Leptospirosis, caused by Leptospira spp., is one of the most common zoonotic diseases in the world. We tested four recombinant proteins of Leptospira interrogans, namely, rLipL21, rLoa22, rLipL32, and rLigACon4-8, to evaluate their potential for use as antigens for the diagnosis of equine leptospirosis. We employed equine sera (n = 130) that were microscopic agglutination test (MAT) negative and sera (n = 176) that were MAT positive for the 5 serovars that most commonly cause equine leptospirosis. The sensitivity and specificity of ELISA compared to MAT were 82.39% and 86.15%, respectively, for LigACon4-8, 77.84% and 92.31%, respectively, for Loa22, 77.84% and 86.15%, respectively, for LipL32, and 84.66% and 83.85%, respectively, for LipL21. When one of the two antigens was test positive, the sensitivity and specificity of ELISA were 93.75% and 78.46%, respectively, for rLigACon4-8 and LipL32, 93.18% and 76.15%, respectively, for rLigACon4-8 and LipL21, 89.77% and 80.77%, respectively, for rLigACon4-8 and Loa22, 91.48% and 78.46%, respectively, for LipL21 and Loa22, 93.75% and 76.92%, respectively, for LipL21 and LipL32, and 90.34% and 80.77%, respectively, for Loa22 and LipL32. In conclusion, we have developed an indirect ELISA utilizing rLigACon4-8, rLoa22, rLipL32, and rLipL21 as diagnostic antigens for equine leptospirosis. The use of four antigens in the ELISA was found to be sensitive and specific, the assay was easy to perform, and the results concurred with the results of the standard Leptospira MAT.
PMCID: PMC3993115  PMID: 24451330
12.  Differential In Vivo Gene Expression of Major Leptospira Proteins in Resistant or Susceptible Animal Models 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(17):6372-6376.
Transcripts of Leptospira 16S rRNA, FlaB, LigB, LipL21, LipL32, LipL36, LipL41, and OmpL37 were quantified in the blood of susceptible (hamsters) and resistant (mice) animal models of leptospirosis. We first validated adequate reference genes and then evaluated expression patterns in vivo compared to in vitro cultures. LipL32 expression was downregulated in vivo and differentially regulated in resistant and susceptible animals. FlaB expression was also repressed in mice but not in hamsters. In contrast, LigB and OmpL37 were upregulated in vivo. Thus, we demonstrated that a virulent strain of Leptospira differentially adapts its gene expression in the blood of infected animals.
PMCID: PMC3416592  PMID: 22729538
13.  Genetic diversity of the Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) genes in pathogenic Leptospira spp. 
Recent serologic, immunoprotection, and pathogenesis studies identified the Lig proteins as key virulence determinants in interactions of leptospiral pathogens with the mammalian host. We examined the sequence variation and recombination patterns of ligA, ligB, and ligC among 10 pathogenic strains from five Leptospira species. All strains were found to have intact ligB genes and genetic drift accounting for most of the ligB genetic diversity observed. The ligA gene was found exclusively in L. interrogans and L. kirschneri strains, and was created from ligB by a two-step partial gene duplication process. The aminoterminal domain of LigB and the LigA paralog were essentially identical (98.5 ± 0.8% mean identity) in strains with both genes. Like ligB, ligC gene variation also followed phylogenetic patterns, suggesting an early gene duplication event. However, ligC is a pseudogene in several strains, suggesting that LigC is not essential for virulence. Two ligB genes and one ligC gene had mosaic compositions and evidence for recombination events between related Leptospira species was also found for some ligA genes. In conclusion, the results presented here indicate that Lig diversity has important ramifications for the selection of Lig polypeptides for use in diagnosis and as vaccine candidates. This sequence information will aid the identification of highly conserved regions within the Lig proteins and improve upon the performance characteristics of the Lig proteins in diagnostic assays and in subunit vaccine formulations with the potential to confer heterologous protection.
PMCID: PMC2812920  PMID: 19028604
Leptospirosis; Lig; Pathogenesis; Molecular evolution; Sequence analysis
14.  Characterization of Conserved Combined T and B Cell Epitopes in Leptospira interrogans Major Outer Membrane Proteins OmpL1 and LipL41 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:21.
Leptospira interrogans are bacterial pathogens of animal that cause zoonotic infections in human. Outer membrane proteins of leptospire are among the most effective antigens which can stimulate remarkable immune responses during the infection processes, and thus are currently considered leading candidate vaccine antigens. The objective of the present study is to predict and confirm major combined B and T cell epitopes of leptospiral outer membrane proteins OmpL1 and LipL41, as well as to evaluate their capacity in the induction of immune responses in BALB/c mice.
In this study, four epitopes from OmpL1 and four from LipL41 conserved regions were evaluated for their potential utilization in leptospire vaccines. Firstly, combined B and T cell epitopes were predicted by softwares and expressed using a phage display system. OmpL1 residues 87-98 and 173-191 (OmpL187-98 and OmpL1173-191) and LipL4130-48, LipL41233-256 of LipL41 were identified as immunodominant B cell epitopes by Western blot. Epitopes OmpL1173-191, OmpL1297-320 of OmpL1 and LipL41233-256, LipL41263-282 of LipL41 were identified as immunodominant CD4+ T cell epitopes through proliferation analysis of splenocytes from recombinant OmpL1 (rOmpL1) or recombinant LipL41 (rLipL41)-immunized BALB/c (H-2d) mice. These epitopes induced responses of CD4+ T cells and Th1 (T helper cells) type cytokine responses during the infection.
This work identified combined T and B cell immunodominant epitopes in outer membrane proteins OmpL1 and LipL41 of Leptospira interrogans. OmpL1173-191 of OmpL1 and LipL41233-256 of LipL41 could be useful in a vaccine against Leptospira. The findings could also contribute to the development of effective cross-protective vaccine strategies for leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC3038132  PMID: 21269437
15.  Multilocus sequence typing method for identification and genotypic classification of pathogenic Leptospira species 
Leptospira are the parasitic bacterial organisms associated with a broad range of mammalian hosts and are responsible for severe cases of human Leptospirosis. The epidemiology of leptospirosis is complex and dynamic. Multiple serovars have been identified, each adapted to one or more animal hosts. Adaptation is a dynamic process that changes the spatial and temporal distribution of serovars and clinical manifestations in different hosts. Serotyping based on repertoire of surface antigens is an ambiguous and artificial system of classification of leptospiral agents. Molecular typing methods for the identification of pathogenic leptospires up to individual genome species level have been highly sought after since the decipherment of whole genome sequences. Only a few resources exist for microbial genotypic data based on individual techniques such as Multiple Locus Sequence Typing (MLST), but unfortunately no such databases are existent for leptospires.
We for the first time report development of a robust MLST method for genotyping of Leptospira. Genotyping based on DNA sequence identity of 4 housekeeping genes and 2 candidate genes was analyzed in a set of 120 strains including 41 reference strains representing different geographical areas and from different sources. Of the six selected genes, adk, icdA and secY were significantly more variable whereas the LipL32 and LipL41 coding genes and the rrs2 gene were moderately variable. The phylogenetic tree clustered the isolates according to the genome-based species.
The main advantages of MLST over other typing methods for leptospires include reproducibility, robustness, consistency and portability. The genetic relatedness of the leptospires can be better studied by the MLST approach and can be used for molecular epidemiological and evolutionary studies and population genetics.
PMCID: PMC1664579  PMID: 17121682
16.  Protection of Guinea Pigs against Leptospira interrogans Serovar Lai by LipL21 DNA Vaccine 
In this study, the full lipL21 gene fragment encoding outer membrane protein LipL21 was cloned from L. interrogans serovar Lai and inserted into eukaryotic expression vector pcDNA3.1(+). The guinea pigs were immunized with pcDNA3.1(+)-lipL21, pcDNA3.1(+) or PBS. Six weeks after the second immunization, the splenocytes were isolated to detect their proliferative ability by lymphocyte transformation experiments. In addition, microscopic agglutination test was used for quantitative detection of specific antibodies. The rest guinea pigs were challenged intraperitoneally with L. interogans sorevar Lai. Then, protective effect was evaluated on the basis of survival and histopathological lesions in the kidneys, lungs, and liver. The lipL21 gene was successfully expressed in COS-7 cells through recombinant pcDNA3.1(+)-lipL21. The titer of specific antibodies substantially increased, and the stimulation index of splenocytes increased significantly. Hence, the pcDNA3.1(+)-lipL21 could protect the immunized guinea pigs from homotypic Leptospira infection. Furthermore, no obvious pathologic changes were observed in the pcDNA3.1(+)-lipL21 immunized guinea pigs. The results showed that the protective effect with pathogenic strains of Leptospira was shared by LipL21 mediated through a plasmid vector. Consequently, these results indicated that the lipL21 DNA vaccine was a promising candidate for the prevention of leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC4072393  PMID: 18954563
Leptospira; lipL21; DNA vaccine; immunoprotection
17.  Post-translational Modification of LipL32 during Leptospira interrogans Infection 
Leptospirosis, a re-emerging disease of global importance caused by pathogenic Leptospira spp., is considered the world's most widespread zoonotic disease. Rats serve as asymptomatic carriers of pathogenic Leptospira and are critical for disease spread. In such reservoir hosts, leptospires colonize the kidney, are shed in the urine, persist in fresh water and gain access to a new mammalian host through breaches in the skin.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Previous studies have provided evidence for post-translational modification (PTM) of leptospiral proteins. In the current study, we used proteomic analyses to determine the presence of PTMs on the highly abundant leptospiral protein, LipL32, from rat urine-isolated L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni compared to in vitro-grown organisms. We observed either acetylation or tri-methylation of lysine residues within multiple LipL32 peptides, including peptides corresponding to regions of LipL32 previously identified as epitopes. Intriguingly, the PTMs were unique to the LipL32 peptides originating from in vivo relative to in vitro grown leptospires. The identity of each modified lysine residue was confirmed by fragmentation pattern analysis of the peptide mass spectra. A synthetic peptide containing an identified tri-methylated lysine, which corresponds to a previously identified LipL32 epitope, demonstrated significantly reduced immunoreactivity with serum collected from leptospirosis patients compared to the peptide version lacking the tri-methylation. Further, a subset of the identified PTMs are in close proximity to the established calcium-binding and putative collagen-binding sites that have been identified within LipL32.
The exclusive detection of PTMs on lysine residues within LipL32 from in vivo-isolated L. interrogans implies that infection-generated modification of leptospiral proteins may have a biologically relevant function during the course of infection. Although definitive determination of the role of these PTMs must await further investigations, the reduced immune recognition of a modified LipL32 epitope suggests the intriguing possibility that LipL32 modification represents a novel mechanism of immune evasion within Leptospira.
Author Summary
Leptospirosis, caused by pathogenic Leptospira spp., constitutes an increasing global public health threat. Humans are accidental hosts, and acquire the disease primarily from contact with water sources that have been contaminated with urine from infected animals. Rats are asymptomatic carriers of infection and are critical for disease transmission to humans, particularly in urban slum environments. In this study, investigation of Leptospira directly isolated from the urine of infected rats showed acetylation or tri-methylation of the highly abundant leptospiral lipoprotein, LipL32. In comparison, Leptospira grown in culture did not result in any LipL32 lysine modifications. A synthetic peptide derived from LipL32 that incorporated a tri-methylated lysine modification exhibited less reactivity with serum from leptospirosis patients compared to an unmodified version of the peptide, suggesting LipL32 modifications may alter protein recognition by the immune response. This study reports, for the first time, modification of a Leptospira protein during infection, and suggests these modifications may have a functional consequence that contributes to bacterial persistence during infection.
PMCID: PMC4214626  PMID: 25356675
18.  Major Surface Protein LipL32 Is Not Required for Either Acute or Chronic Infection with Leptospira interrogans▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2008;77(3):952-958.
Leptospira interrogans is responsible for leptospirosis, a zoonosis of worldwide distribution. LipL32 is the major outer membrane protein of pathogenic leptospires, accounting for up to 75% of total outer membrane protein. In recent times LipL32 has become the focus of intense study because of its surface location, dominance in the host immune response, and conservation among pathogenic species. In this study, an lipL32 mutant was constructed in L. interrogans using transposon mutagenesis. The lipL32 mutant had normal morphology and growth rate compared to the wild type and was equally adherent to extracellular matrix. Protein composition of the cell membranes was found to be largely unaffected by the loss of LipL32, with no obvious compensatory increase in other proteins. Microarray studies found no obvious stress response or upregulation of genes that may compensate for the loss of LipL32 but did suggest an association between LipL32 and the synthesis of heme and vitamin B12. When hamsters were inoculated by systemic and mucosal routes, the mutant caused acute severe disease manifestations that were indistinguishable from wild-type L. interrogans infection. In the rat model of chronic infection, the LipL32 mutant colonized the renal tubules as efficiently as the wild-type strain. In conclusion, this study showed that LipL32 does not play a role in either the acute or chronic models of infection. Considering the abundance and conservation of LipL32 among all pathogenic Leptospira spp. and its absence in saprophytic Leptospira, this finding is remarkable. The role of this protein in leptospiral biology and pathogenesis thus remains elusive.
PMCID: PMC2643616  PMID: 19103763
19.  Molecular cloning and sequence analysis of the gene encoding LipL41, a surface-exposed lipoprotein of pathogenic Leptospira species. 
Infection and Immunity  1996;64(6):2322-2330.
We report the cloning of the gene encoding a surface-exposed leptospiral lipoprotein, designated LipL41. In a previous study, a 41-kDa protein antigen was identified on the surface of Leptospira kirschneri (D. A. Haake, E. M. Walker, D. R. Blanco, C. A. Bolin, J. N. Miller, and M. A. Lovett, Infect. Immun. 59:1131-1140, 1991). We obtained the N-terminal amino acid sequence of a staphylococcal V8 proteolytic-digest fragment in order to design an oligonucleotide probe.A Lambda ZAP II library containing EcoRI fragments of L. kirschneri DNA was screened, and a 2.3-kb DNA fragment which contained the entire structural lipL41 gene was identified. The deduced amino acid sequence of LipL41 would encode a 355-amino-acid polypeptide with a 19-amino-acid signal peptide, followed by an L-X-Y-C lipoprotein signal peptidase cleavage site. A recombinant His6-LipL41 fusion protein was expressed in Escherichia coli in order to generate specific rabbit antiserum. LipL41 is solubilized by Triton X-114 extraction of L. kirschneri; phase separation results in partitioning of LipL41 exclusively into the detergent phase. At least eight proteins, including LipL41 and the other major Triton X-114 detergent phase proteins, are intrinsically labeled during incubation of L. kirschneri in media containing [3H] palmitate. Processing of LipL41 is inhibited by globomycin, a selective inhibitor of lipoprotein signal peptidase. Triton X-100 extracts of L. kirschneri contain immunoprecipitable OmpL1 (porin), LipL41, and another lipoprotein, LipL36. However, in contrast to LipL36, only LipL41 and OmpL1 were exposed on the surface of intact organisms. Immunoblot analysis of a panel of Leptospira species reveals that LipL41 expression is highly conserved among leptospiral pathogens.
PMCID: PMC174073  PMID: 8675344
20.  Human Leptospirosis Caused by a New, Antigenically Unique Leptospira Associated with a Rattus Species Reservoir in the Peruvian Amazon 
As part of a prospective study of leptospirosis and biodiversity of Leptospira in the Peruvian Amazon, a new Leptospira species was isolated from humans with acute febrile illness. Field trapping identified this leptospire in peridomestic rats (Rattus norvegicus, six isolates; R. rattus, two isolates) obtained in urban, peri-urban, and rural areas of the Iquitos region. Novelty of this species was proven by serological typing, 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, and DNA-DNA hybridization analysis. We have named this species “Leptospira licerasiae” serovar Varillal, and have determined that it is phylogenetically related to, but genetically distinct from, other intermediate Leptospira such as L. fainei and L. inadai. The type strain is serovar Varillal strain VAR 010T, which has been deposited into internationally accessible culture collections. By microscopic agglutination test, “Leptospira licerasiae” serovar Varillal was antigenically distinct from all known serogroups of Leptospira except for low level cross-reaction with rabbit anti–L. fainei serovar Hurstbridge at a titer of 1∶100. LipL32, although not detectable by PCR, was detectable in “Leptospira licerasiae” serovar Varillal by both Southern blot hybridization and Western immunoblot, although on immunoblot, the predicted protein was significantly smaller (27 kDa) than that of L. interrogans and L. kirschneri (32 kDa). Isolation was rare from humans (2/45 Leptospira isolates from 881 febrile patients sampled), but high titers of MAT antibodies against “Leptospira licerasiae” serovar Varillal were common (30%) among patients fulfilling serological criteria for acute leptospirosis in the Iquitos region, and uncommon (7%) elsewhere in Peru. This new leptospiral species reflects Amazonian biodiversity and has evolved to become an important cause of leptospirosis in the Peruvian Amazon.
Author Summary
Leptospirosis has emerged as a globally important infectious disease. Its impact on public health is often difficult to determine, sometimes because of low clinical suspicion, or, as is more common, difficulty in laboratory diagnosis. Gold-standard serology-based diagnosis has a number of important limitations, including the need to use live leptospires that have a sufficient diversity of antigens to be able to detect specific anti-leptospiral antibodies; such antigens vary greatly from region to region. In this paper, we report the discovery of a new species of Leptospira in the highly biodiverse region of the Peruvian Amazon, and demonstrate that the animal source of infection for humans is the domestic rat. Detailed biological characterization of this new species shows that it is antigenically unique and represents a new serogroup and serovar, proposed as Leptospira licerasiae serogroup Iquitos serovar Varillal. Incorporation of this new isolate into serological testing of patients presenting with acute febrile illness in Iquitos, Peru, showed a far higher incidence of leptospirosis than previously suspected, showing the important of using region-specific Leptospira in diagnosis. The field-to-laboratory approach presented here has general application to the discovery of other emerging pathogens and their impact on human health.
PMCID: PMC2271056  PMID: 18382606
21.  Diagnosis of Canine Leptospirosis by a Highly Sensitive FRET-PCR Targeting the lig Genes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89507.
Canine leptospirosis is underdiagnosed due to its wide spectrum of clinical presentations and the lack of a rapid and sensitive test for the accurate diagnosis of acute and chronic infections. In this study, we developed a highly sensitive and specific fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-PCR to detect common pathogenic leptospires in dogs, including Leptospira interrogans serovars Autumnalis, Canicola, Copenhageni (Icterohaemorrhagiae serogroup) and Pomona, and Leptospira kirschneri serovar Grippotyphosa. This PCR targets the lig genes, exclusively found in the pathogenic Leptospira species but not in saprophytic species (L. biflexa). A robust, high-stringency step-down real-time platform was coupled to the highly specific detection of leptospiral DNA by fluorescently labeled FRET probes. This enabled the detection of a single copy of the lig gene in a PCR containing DNA from up to 50 µL canine blood or 400 µL urine. Sensitivity determination by use of limiting serial dilutions of extracted leptospiral DNA indicated that the lig FRET-PCR we established was almost 100-fold more sensitive than the widely accepted lipL32 SYBR assay and 10-fold more sensitive than a 16S rRNA TaqMan assay. Application of this method to 207 dogs with potential leptospiral infection enabled us to diagnose three cases of canine leptospirosis characterized by low amounts of leptospiral DNA in body fluids. Detection of canine leptospirosis with the lig FRET-PCR was more sensitive with the lig FRET-PCR than with the 16S rRNA TaqMan PCR, which detected only 2 of the 3 cases, and the lipL32 SYBR PCR, which detected none of the 3 dogs with leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC3933566  PMID: 24586833
22.  Serovar Diversity of Pathogenic Leptospira Circulating in the French West Indies 
Leptospirosis is one of the most important neglected tropical bacterial diseases in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, very little is known about the circulating etiological agents of leptospirosis in this region. In this study, we describe the serological and molecular features of leptospires isolated from 104 leptospirosis patients in Guadeloupe (n = 85) and Martinique (n = 19) and six rats captured in Guadeloupe, between 2004 and 2012.
Methods and Findings
Strains were studied by serogrouping, PFGE, MLVA, and sequencing 16SrRNA and secY. DNA extracts from blood samples collected from 36 patients in Martinique were also used for molecular typing of leptospires via PCR. Phylogenetic analyses revealed thirteen different genotypes clustered into five main clades that corresponded to the species: L. interrogans, L. kirschneri, L. borgpetersenii, L. noguchi, and L. santarosai. We also identified L. kmetyi in at least two patients with acute leptospirosis. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that this species has been identified in humans. The most prevalent genotypes were associated with L. interrogans serovars Icterohaemorrhagiae and Copenhageni, L. kirschneri serovar Bogvere, and L. borgpetersenii serovar Arborea. We were unable to identify nine strains at the serovar level and comparison of genotyping results to the MLST database revealed new secY alleles.
The overall serovar distribution in the French West Indies was unique compared to the neighboring islands. Typing of leptospiral isolates also suggested the existence of previously undescribed serovars.
Author Summary
Leptospirosis is an emerging zoonotic disease caused by infection with pathogenic strains of Leptospira. Isolation of Leptospira strains is rare, making it difficult to assess their distribution worldwide. In this study, we characterized cultures of Leptospira obtained from more than one hundred leptospirosis patients from the French West Indies by serology and various molecular typing methods to identify the strains circulating in this endemic region. Typing of leptospiral isolates showed that causative agents of leptospirosis in the French West Indies are mainly from the serogroups Icterohaemorrhagiae and Ballum, but we also identified new genotypes. We also found that the distribution of the predominant pathogenic leptospiral serovars differed between the Caribbean islands. A better understanding of the epidemiology of leptospirosis will improve our knowledge in the distribution of this emerging neglected tropical disease worldwide. The identification of the circulating etiological agents of leptospirosis in the French West Indies will also help establish appropriate control and prevention measures in this area where the disease is endemic.
PMCID: PMC3597474  PMID: 23516654
23.  Identification of Immunodominant B- and T-Cell Combined Epitopes in Outer Membrane Lipoproteins LipL32 and LipL21 of Leptospira interrogans▿  
Leptospirosis is a serious infectious disease caused by pathogenic Leptospira. B- and T-cell-mediated immune responses contribute to the mechanisms of Leptospira interrogans infection and immune intervention. LipL32 and LipL21 are the conserved outer membrane lipoproteins of L. interrogans and are considered vaccine candidates. In this study, we identified B- and T-cell combined epitopes within LipL32 and LipL21 to further develop a novel vaccine. By using a computer prediction algorithm, two B- and T-cell combined epitopes of LipL21 and four of LipL32 were predicted. All of the predicted epitopes were expressed in a phage display system. Four epitopes, LipL21 residues 97 to 112 and 176 to 184 (LipL2197-112 and LipL21176-184, respectively) and LipL32133-160 and LipL32221-247 of LipL32 were selected as antigens by Western blotting and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. These selected epitopes were also recognized by CD4+ T lymphocytes derived from LipL21- or LipL32-immunized BALB/c (H-2d) mice and mainly polarized the immune response toward a Th1 phenotype. The identification of epitopes that have both B- and T-cell immune reactivities is of value for studying the immune mechanisms in response to leptospiral infection and for designing an effective vaccine for leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC2863375  PMID: 20237196
24.  Targeted Mutagenesis in Pathogenic Leptospira Species: Disruption of the LigB Gene Does Not Affect Virulence in Animal Models of Leptospirosis▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(12):5826-5833.
The pathogenic mechanisms of Leptospira interrogans, the causal agent of leptospirosis, remain largely unknown. This is mainly due to the lack of tools for genetically manipulating pathogenic Leptospira species. Thus, homologous recombination between introduced DNA and the corresponding chromosomal locus has never been demonstrated for this pathogen. Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like repeat (Lig) proteins were previously identified as putative Leptospira virulence factors. In this study, a ligB mutant was constructed by allelic exchange in L. interrogans; in this mutant a spectinomycin resistance (Spcr) gene replaced a portion of the ligB coding sequence. Gene disruption was confirmed by PCR, immunoblot analysis, and immunofluorescence studies. The ligB mutant did not show decrease virulence compared to the wild-type strain in the hamster model of leptospirosis. In addition, inoculation of rats with the ligB mutant induced persistent colonization of the kidneys. Finally, LigB was not required to mediate bacterial adherence to cultured cells. Taken together, our data provide the first evidence of site-directed homologous recombination in pathogenic Leptospira species. Furthermore, our data suggest that LigB does not play a major role in dissemination of the pathogen in the host and in the development of acute disease manifestations or persistent renal colonization.
PMCID: PMC2583567  PMID: 18809657
25.  Novel 45-Kilodalton Leptospiral Protein That Is Processed to a 31-Kilodalton Growth-Phase-Regulated Peripheral Membrane Protein  
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(1):323-334.
Leptospiral protein antigens are of interest as potential virulence factors and as candidate serodiagnostic and immunoprotective reagents. We identified leptospiral protein antigens by screening a genomic expression library with serum from a rabbit hyperimmunized with formalin-killed, virulent Leptospira kirschneri serovar grippotyphosa. Genes expressing known outer membrane lipoproteins LipL32 and LipL41, the heat shock protein GroEL, and the α, β, and β′ subunits of RNA polymerase were isolated from the library. In addition, a new leptospiral gene that in Escherichia coli expressed a 45-kDa antigen with an amino-terminal signal peptide followed by the spirochetal lipobox Val−4-Phe−3-Asn−2-Ala−1↓Cys+1 was isolated. We designated this putative lipoprotein LipL45. Immunoblot analysis of a panel of Leptospira strains probed with LipL45 antiserum demonstrated that many low-passage strains expressed LipL45. In contrast, LipL45 was not detected in high-passage, culture-attenuated strains, suggesting that LipL45 is a virulence-associated protein. In addition, all leptospiral strains tested, irrespective of culture passage, expressed a 31-kDa antigen that was recognized by LipL45 antiserum. Southern blot and peptide mapping studies indicated that this 31-kDa antigen was derived from the carboxy terminus of LipL45; therefore, it was designated P31LipL45. Membrane fractionation studies demonstrated that P31LipL45 is a peripheral membrane protein. Finally, we found that P31LipL45 levels increased as Leptospira entered the stationary phase, indicating that P31LipL45 levels were regulated. Hamsters infected with L. kirschneri formed an antibody response to LipL45, indicating that LipL45 was expressed during infection. Furthermore, the immunohistochemistry of kidneys from infected hamsters indicated that LipL45 was expressed by L. kirschneri that colonized the renal tubule. These observations suggest that expression of LipL45 responds to environmental cues, including those encountered during infection of a mammalian host.
PMCID: PMC127625  PMID: 11748198

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