Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonosis caused by pathogenic Leptospira. The whole-genome sequence of L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni together with bioinformatics tools represent a great opportunity to search for novel antigen candidates that could be used as subunit vaccine against leptospirosis. We focused on six genes encoding for conserved hypothetical proteins predicted to be exported to the outer membrane. The genes were amplified by PCR from Leptospira interrogans genomic DNA and were cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli. The recombinant proteins tagged with N-terminal hexahistidine were purified by metal-charged chromatography. The immunization of hamsters followed by challenge with lethal dose of virulent strain of Leptospira showed that the recombinant proteins Lsa21, Lsa66 and rLIC11030 elicited partial protection to animals. These proteins could be used combined or in a mixture with novel adjuvants in order to improve their effectiveness.
Leptospira interrogans; leptospirosis; recombinant protein; vaccine.
Leptospirosis, a worldwide zoonosis, lacks an effective, safe, and cross-protective vaccine. LipL32, the most abundant, immunogenic, and conserved surface lipoprotein present in all pathogenic species of Leptospira, is a promising antigen candidate for a recombinant vaccine. However, several studies have reported a lack of protection when this protein is used as a subunit vaccine. In an attempt to enhance the immune response, we used LipL32 coupled to or coadministered with the B subunit of the Escherichia coli heat-labile enterotoxin (LTB) in a hamster model of leptospirosis. After homologous challenge with 5× the 50% lethal dose (LD50) of Leptospira interrogans, animals vaccinated with LipL32 coadministered with LTB and LTB::LipL32 had significantly higher survival rates (P < 0.05) than animals from the control group. This is the first report of a protective immune response afforded by a subunit vaccine using LipL32 and represents an important contribution toward the development of improved leptospirosis vaccines.
The leptospiral LigA protein consists of 13 bacterial immunoglobulin-like (Big) domains and is the only purified recombinant subunit vaccine that has been demonstrated to protect against lethal challenge by a clinical isolate of Leptospira interrogans in the hamster model of leptospirosis. We determined the minimum number and location of LigA domains required for immunoprotection. Immunization with domains 11 and 12 was found to be required but insufficient for protection. Inclusion of a third domain, either 10 or 13, was required for 100% survival after intraperitoneal challenge with Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni strain Fiocruz L1-130. As in previous studies, survivors had renal colonization; here, we quantitated the leptospiral burden by qPCR to be 1.2×103 to 8×105 copies of leptospiral DNA per microgram of kidney DNA. Although renal histopathology in survivors revealed tubulointerstitial changes indicating an inflammatory response to the infection, blood chemistry analysis indicated that renal function was normal. These studies define the Big domains of LigA that account for its vaccine efficacy and highlight the need for additional strategies to achieve sterilizing immunity to protect the mammalian host from leptospiral infection and its consequences.
Leptospirosis is the most widespread bacterial infection transmitted to humans from host animals that harbor the bacteria in their kidneys. Human infections caused by the bacterium, Leptospira interrogans, frequently result in a life-threatening illness characterized by jaundice and kidney failure. Vaccines are urgently needed to prevent leptospirosis in populations at risk. The leptospiral protein, LigA, is a promising vaccine candidate because it is the first purified protein to be shown to protect animals from fatal leptospirosis. The goal of this study was to determine which of LigA's 13 domains are required for the protective effect. Immunization with domains 11 and 12 was found to be required, but was insufficient, for protection. A third domain, either 10 or 13, was required for 100% survival. As in previous studies, residual bacteria were cultured from the kidneys of survivors. However, in contrast to previous studies, we determined the amount of bacterial DNA in the kidneys as a measure of vaccine efficacy. We also examined the kidneys microscopically for signs of damage and measured blood chemistries to assess kidney function. These are important steps towards developing vaccines that provide protection from kidney damage and infection.
Background. Leptospira species cause leptospirosis, a zoonotic disease found worldwide. Current vaccines against leptospirosis provide protection only against closely related serovars.
Methods. We evaluated an attenuated transposon mutant of Leptospira interrogans serovar Manilae (M1352, defective in lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis) as a live vaccine against leptospirosis. Hamsters received a single dose of vaccine and were challenged with the homologous serovar (Manilae) and a serologically unrelated heterologous serovar (Pomona). Comparisons were made with killed vaccines. Potential cross-protective antigens against leptospirosis were investigated.
Results. Live M1352 vaccine induced superior protection in hamsters against homologous challenge. The live vaccine also stimulated cross-protection against heterologous challenge, with 100% survival (live M1352) versus 40% survival (killed vaccine). Hamsters receiving either vaccine responded to the dominant membrane proteins LipL32 and LipL41. Hamsters receiving the live vaccine additionally recognized LA3961/OmpL36 (unknown function), Loa22 (OmpA family protein, recognized virulence factor), LA2372 (general secretory protein G), and LA1939 (hypothetical protein). Manilae LigA was recognized by M1352 vaccinates, whereas LipL36 was detected in Pomona.
Conclusion. This study demonstrated that a live, attenuated vaccine can stimulate cross-protective immunity to L. interrogans and has identified antigens that potentially confer cross-protection against leptospirosis.
Effort has been made to identify protective antigens in order to develop a recombinant vaccine against leptospirosis. Several attempts failed to conclusively demonstrate efficacy of vaccine candidates due to the lack of an appropriate model of lethal leptospirosis. The purposes of our study were: (i) to test the virulence of leptospiral isolates from Brazil, which are representative of important serogroups that cause disease in humans and animals; and (ii) to standardize the lethal dose 50% (LD50) for each of the virulent strains using a hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) model. Five of seven Brazilian isolates induced lethality in a hamster model, with inocula lower than 200 leptospires. Histopathological examination of infected animals showed typical lesions found in both natural and experimental leptospirosis. Results described here demonstrated the potential use of Brazilian isolates as highly virulent strains in challenge experiments using hamster as an appropriate animal model for leptospirosis. Furthermore these strains may be useful in heterologous challenge studies which aim to evaluate cross-protective responses induced by subunit vaccine candidates.
Leptospira; leptospirosis; lethal dose; isolation; animal model; virulence
Leptospirosis is an emerging infectious disease caused by pathogenic species of Leptospira. In this work, we report the cloning, expression, purification, and characterization of two predicted leptospiral outer membrane proteins, LIC11469 and LIC11030. The LIC11469 protein is well conserved among leptospiral strains, while LIC11030 was identified only in Leptospira interrogans. We confirmed by surface proteolysis of intact leptospires with proteinase K that these proteins are most likely new surface leptospiral proteins. The recombinant proteins were evaluated for their capacity to attach to extracellular matrix (ECM) components and to plasminogen. The leptospiral protein encoded by LIC11469, named Lsa20 (leptospiral surface adhesin of 20 kDa), binds to laminin and to plasminogen. The binding with both components was not detected when Lsa20 was previously denatured or blocked with anti-Lsa20 antibodies. Moreover, Lsa20 binding to laminin was also confirmed by surface plasmon resonance (SPR). Laminin competes with plasminogen for binding to Lsa20, suggesting the same ligand-binding site. Lsa20-bound plasminogen could be converted to enzymatically active plasmin, capable of cleaving plasmin substrate d-valyl-leucyl-lysine-p-nitroanilide dihydrochloride. Lsa20 was recognized by antibodies in confirmed-leptospirosis serum samples, suggesting that this protein is expressed during infection. Taken together, our results indicate that Lsa20 is a novel leptospiral adhesin that in concert with the host-derived plasmin may help the bacteria to adhere and to spread through the hosts.
In determining the efficacy of new vaccine candidates for leptospirosis, the primary end point is death and an important secondary end point is sterilizing immunity. However, evaluation of this end point is often hampered by the time-consuming demands and complexity of methods such as culture isolation (CI). In this study, we evaluated the use of an imprint (or touch preparation) method (IM) in detecting the presence of leptospires in tissues of hamsters infected with Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni. In a dissemination study, compared to CI, the IM led to equal or improved detection of leptospires in kidney, liver, lung and blood samples collected post-infection and overall concordance was good (κ=0.61). Furthermore, in an evaluation of hamsters immunized with a recombinant leptospiral protein-based vaccine candidate and subsequently challenged, the agreement between the CI and IM was very good (κ=0.84). These findings indicate that the IM is a rapid method for the direct observation of Leptospira spp. that can be readily applied to evaluating infection in experimental animals and determining sterilizing immunity when screening potential vaccine candidates.
Subunit vaccines are a potential intervention strategy against leptospirosis, which is a major public health problem in developing countries and a veterinary disease in livestock and companion animals worldwide. Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) proteins are a family of surface-exposed determinants that have Ig-like repeat domains found in virulence factors such as intimin and invasin. We expressed fragments of the repeat domain regions of LigA and LigB from Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni. Immunization of Golden Syrian hamsters with Lig fragments in Freund’s adjuvant induced robust antibody responses against recombinant protein and native protein, as detected by ELISA and immunoblot, respectively. A single fragment, LigANI, which corresponds to the six carboxy-terminal Ig-like repeat domains of the LigA molecule, conferred immunoprotection against mortality (67-100%, P <0.05) in hamsters which received a lethal inoculum of L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni. However, immunization with this fragment did not confer sterilizing immunity. These findings indicate that the carboxy-terminal portion of LigA is an immunoprotective domain and may serve as a vaccine candidate for human and veterinary leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis; subunit vaccine; Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like protein; recombinant protein; immunity; antibodies; hamsters
Leptospira interrogans is the etiological agent of leptospirosis, a zoonotic disease of human and veterinary concern. The identification of novel proteins that mediate host-pathogen interactions is important for understanding the bacterial pathogenesis as well as to identify protective antigens that would help fight the disease. We describe in this work the cloning, expression, purification and characterization of three predicted leptospiral membrane proteins, LIC10258, LIC12880 (Lp30) and LIC12238. We have employed Escherichia coli BL21 (SI) strain as a host expression system. Recently, we have identified LIC12238 as a plasminogen (PLG)-binding receptor. We show now that Lp30 and rLIC10258 are also PLG-receptors of Leptospira, both exhibiting dose-dependent and saturating binding (KD, 68.8±25.2 nM and 167.39±60.1 nM, for rLIC10258 and rLIC12880, respectively). In addition, LIC10258, which is a novel OmpA-like protein, binds laminin and plasma fibronectin ECM molecules and hence, it was named Lsa66 (Leptospiral surface adhesin of 66 kDa). Binding of Lsa66 to ECM components was determined to be specific, dose-dependent and saturable, with a KD of 55.4±15.9 nM to laminin and of 290.8±11.8 nM to plasma fibronectin. Binding of the recombinant proteins to PLG or ECM components was assessed by using antibodies against each of the recombinant proteins obtained in mice and confirmed by monoclonal anti-polyhistidine antibodies. Lsa66 caused partial inhibition on leptospiral adherence to immobilized ECM and PLG. Moreover, this adhesin and rLIC12238 are recognized by antibodies in serum samples of confirmed leptospirosis cases. Thus, Lsa66 is a novel OmpA-like protein with dual activity that may promote the attachment of Leptospira to host tissues and may contribute to the leptospiral invasion. To our knowledge, this is the first leptospiral protein with ECM and PLG binding properties reported to date.
Leptospirosis is a zoonosis of multisystem involvement caused by pathogenic strains of the genus Leptospira. In the last few years, intensive studies aimed at the development of a vaccine have provided important knowledge about the nature of the immunological mechanisms of the host. The purpose of this study was to analyze the immune responses to two recombinant proteins, MPL17 and MPL21 (encoded by the genes LIC10765 and LIC13131, respectively) of Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni in individuals during infection. The recombinant proteins were expressed in Escherichia coli as six-His tag fusion proteins and were purified from the soluble bacterial fraction by affinity chromatography with Ni2+-charged resin. The recombinant proteins were used to evaluate their ability to bind to immunoglobulin G (IgG) (and IgG subclass) or IgM antibodies in serum samples from patients in the early and convalescent phases of leptospirosis (n = 52) by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. The prevalences of total IgG antibodies against MPL17 and MPL21 were 38.5% and 21.2%, respectively. The titers achieved with MPL17 were statistically significantly higher than those obtained by the reference microscopic agglutination test. The specificity of the assay was estimated to be 95.5% for MPL17 and 80.6% for MPL21 when serum samples from individuals with unrelated febrile diseases and control healthy donors were tested. The proteins are conserved among Leptospira strains that cause human and animal diseases. MPL17 and MPL21 are most likely new surface proteins of leptospires, as revealed by liquid-phase immunofluorescence assays with living organisms. Our results demonstrate that these recombinant proteins are highly immunogenic and, when they are used together, might be useful as a means of diagnosing leptospirosis.
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.
Leptospirosis is an important zoonosis and has a worldwide impact on public health. This paper will discuss both the role of immunogenic and pathogenic molecules during leptospirosis infection and possible new targets for immunotherapy against leptospira components. Leptospira, possess a wide variety of mechanisms that allow them to evade the host immune system and cause infection. Many molecules contribute to the ability of Leptospira to adhere, invade, and colonize. The recent sequencing of the Leptospira genome has increased our knowledge about this pathogen. Although the virulence factors, molecular targets, mechanisms of inflammation, and signaling pathways triggered by leptospiral antigens have been studied, some questions are still unanswered. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are the primary sensors of invading pathogens. TLRs recognize conserved microbial pattern molecules and activate signaling pathways that are pivotal to innate and adaptive immune responses. Recently, a new molecular target has emerged—the Na/K-ATPase—which may contribute to inflammatory and metabolic alteration in this syndrome. Na/K-ATPase is a target for specific fatty acids of host origin and for bacterial components such as the glycolipoprotein fraction (GLP) that may lead to inflammasome activation. We propose that in addition to TLRs, Na/K-ATPase may play a role in the innate response to leptospirosis infection.
New vaccine strategies are needed for the prevention of leptospirosis, a widespread human and animal disease caused by pathogenic leptospires. Our previous work determined that a protein leptospiral extract conferred cross-protection in a gerbil model of leptospirosis. The 31- to 34-kDa protein fraction of Leptospira interrogans serovar autumnalis was shown sufficient for this purpose. In the present study, N-terminal sequencing of a 32-kDa fraction and Southern blotting of genomic DNA with corresponding degenerated oligonucleotide probes identified two of its constituents: hemolysis-associated protein 1 (Hap1) and the outer membrane Leptospira protein 1 (OmpL1). Adenovirus-mediated Hap1 vaccination induces significant protection against a virulent heterologous Leptospira challenge in gerbils, whereas a similar OmpL1 construct failed to protect the animals. These data indicate that Hap1 could be a good candidate for developing a new generation of vaccines able to induce broad protection against leptospirosis disease.
Leptospires (Leptospira interrogans serovar pomona) grown in chemically defined medium were immunogenic when given intradermally in humans if the leptospires were killed with formalin but not if they were boiled. Boiled leptospires were immunogenic for rabbits and hamsters and protected hamsters from challenge infection. On the other hand, boiled leptospires of the biflexa complex, serovar patoc, did retain some immunogenicity in humans, but the antisera did not protect hamsters against challenge with serovar pomona.
Recombinant leptospiral outer membrane proteins (OMPs) can elicit immunity to leptospirosis in a hamster infection model. Previously characterized OMPs appear highly conserved, and thus their potential to stimulate heterologous immunity is of critical importance. In this study we undertook a global analysis of leptospiral OMPs, which were obtained by Triton X-114 extraction and phase partitioning. Outer membrane fractions were isolated from Leptospira interrogans serovar Lai grown at 20, 30, and 37°C with or without 10% fetal calf serum and, finally, in iron-depleted medium. The OMPs were separated by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Gel patterns from each of the five conditions were compared via image analysis, and 37 gel-purified proteins were tryptically digested and characterized by mass spectrometry (MS). Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time-of-flight MS was used to rapidly identify leptospiral OMPs present in sequence databases. Proteins identified by this approach included the outer membrane lipoproteins LipL32, LipL36, LipL41, and LipL48. No known proteins from any cellular location other than the outer membrane were identified. Tandem electrospray MS was used to obtain peptide sequence information from eight novel proteins designated pL18, pL21, pL22, pL24, pL45, pL47/49, pL50, and pL55. The expression of LipL36 and pL50 was not apparent at temperatures above 30°C or under iron-depleted conditions. The expression of pL24 was also downregulated after iron depletion. The leptospiral major OMP LipL32 was observed to undergo substantial cleavage under all conditions except iron depletion. Additionally, significant downregulation of these mass forms was observed under iron limitation at 30°C, but not at 30°C alone, suggesting that LipL32 processing is dependent on iron-regulated extracellular proteases. However, separate cleavage products responded differently to changes in growth temperature and medium constituents, indicating that more than one process may be involved in LipL32 processing. Furthermore, under iron-depleted conditions there was no concomitant increase in the levels of the intact form of LipL32. The temperature- and iron-regulated expression of LipL36 and the iron-dependent cleavage of LipL32 were confirmed by immunoblotting with specific antisera. Global analysis of the cellular location and expression of leptospiral proteins will be useful in the annotation of genomic sequence data and in providing insight into the biology of Leptospira.
Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonotic infection of human and veterinary concern. Caused by pathogenic spirochetes of the genus Leptospira, the disease presents greater incidence in tropical and subtropical regions. The identification of proteins that could be involved in the bacteria host interactions may facilitate the search for immune protective antigens. We report the proteomic analysis of Leptospira interrogans serovar Pomona virulent strain LPF cultured from kidney and liver of infected hamsters. Total protein extracts were separated by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DE), 895 spots were analyzed by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry (MS), and 286 were identified as leptospiral proteins, corresponding to 108 distinct proteins. These proteins are allocated in all the bacterial cell compartments and are distributed in every functional category. Furthermore, the previously described, known outer membrane proteins, OmpL1, LipL21, LipL31, LipL32/Hap-1, LipL41, LipL45, LipL46, LruA/LipL71, and OmpA-like protein Loa22 were all recognized. Most importantly, this research work identified 27 novel leptospiral proteins annotated as hypothetical open reading frames (ORFs). We report for the first time an array of proteins of the Leptospira expressed by virulent, low-passage strain. We believe that our studies, together with the genome data will enlighten our understanding of the disease.
Leptospira interrogans; leptospirosis; proteomics.
Leptospirosis is a multisystem disease caused by pathogenic strains of the genus Leptospira. We have reported that Leptospira are able to bind plasminogen (PLG), to generate active plasmin in the presence of activator, and to degrade purified extracellular matrix fibronectin.
We have now cloned, expressed and purified 14 leptospiral recombinant proteins. The proteins were confirmed to be surface exposed by immunofluorescence microscopy and were evaluated for their ability to bind plasminogen (PLG). We identified eight as PLG-binding proteins, including the major outer membrane protein LipL32, the previously published rLIC12730, rLIC10494, Lp29, Lp49, LipL40 and MPL36, and one novel leptospiral protein, rLIC12238. Bound PLG could be converted to plasmin by the addition of urokinase-type PLG activator (uPA), showing specific proteolytic activity, as assessed by its reaction with the chromogenic plasmin substrate, D-Val-Leu-Lys 4-nitroanilide dihydrochloride. The addition of the lysine analog 6-aminocaproic acid (ACA) inhibited the protein-PLG interaction, thus strongly suggesting the involvement of lysine residues in plasminogen binding. The binding of leptospiral surface proteins to PLG was specific, dose-dependent and saturable. PLG and collagen type IV competed with LipL32 protein for the same binding site, whereas separate binding sites were observed for plasma fibronectin.
PLG-binding/activation through the proteins/receptors on the surface of Leptospira could help the bacteria to specifically overcome tissue barriers, facilitating its spread throughout the host.
We previously reported the cloning and characterization of leptospiral immunoglobulin-like proteins LigA and LigB of Leptospira interrogans. LigA and LigB are conserved at the amino-terminal region but are variable at the carboxyl-terminal region. Here, we evaluate the potential of recombinant LigA (rLigA) as a vaccine candidate against infection by L. interrogans serovar Pomona in a hamster model. rLigA was truncated into conserved (rLigAcon) and variable (rLigAvar) regions and expressed in Escherichia coli as a fusion protein with glutathione-S-transferase (rLigA). Golden Syrian hamsters were immunized at 3 and 6 weeks of age with rLigA (rLigAcon and rLigAvar) with aluminum hydroxide as an adjuvant. Hamsters given recombinant glutathione-S-transferase (rGST)-adjuvant and phosphate-buffered saline-adjuvant served as nonvaccinated controls. Three weeks after the last vaccination, all animals were challenged intraperitoneally with 108 L. interrogans serovar Pomona bacteria (NVSL 1427-35-093002). All hamsters immunized with recombinant LigA survived after challenge and had no significant histopathological changes. In contrast, nonimmunized and rGST-immunized hamsters were subjected to lethal doses, and the hamsters that survived showed severe tubulointerstitial nephritis. All vaccinated animals showed a rise in antibody titers against rLigA. Results from this study indicate that rLigA is a potential vaccine candidate against L. interrogans serovar Pomona infection.
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.
Leptospirosis is an extremely widespread zoonotic infection with outcomes ranging from subclinical infection to fatal Weil's syndrome. Despite the global impact of the disease, key aspects of its pathogenesis remain unclear. To examine in detail the earliest steps in the host response to leptospires, we used fluorescently labelled Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni to infect 30 hour post fertilization zebrafish embryos by either the caudal vein or hindbrain ventricle. These embryos have functional innate immunity but have not yet developed an adaptive immune system. Furthermore, they are optically transparent, allowing direct visualization of host–pathogen interactions from the moment of infection. We observed rapid uptake of leptospires by phagocytes, followed by persistent, intracellular infection over the first 48 hours. Phagocytosis of leptospires occasionally resulted in formation of large cellular vesicles consistent with apoptotic bodies. By 24 hours, clusters of infected phagocytes were accumulating lateral to the dorsal artery, presumably in early hematopoietic tissue. Our observations suggest that phagocytosis may be a key defense mechanism in the early stages of leptospirosis, and that phagocytic cells play roles in immunopathogenesis and likely in the dissemination of leptospires to specific target tissues.
Leptospirosis is a common bacterial infection in many tropical regions of the world that causes serious and often fatal disease in humans. The infection is transmitted by carrier animals, especially rats and other rodents, that release the leptospire bacteria from their kidneys into their urine. Humans are infected through exposure of broken skin or mucous membranes to contaminated water. Little is known about how or why the bacteria traffic from these sites specifically to the kidneys. The zebrafish embryo is a popular model organism for studying embryonic development, in part because of the ease with which living cells within the transparent embryos can be studied under the microscope. In this study, we use leptospire-infected zebrafish embryos to examine early leptospirosis by microscopy. In the first days of infection, the embryos appear normal. We find that leptospires are readily ingested (but not killed) by white blood cells called phagocytes. Later, infected cells are found specifically in a tissue near the dorsal aorta. This site may be a tissue that produces new blood cells and may represent a conduit for subsequent tissue targeting of the organisms. Our findings suggest that the zebrafish model may be useful for studying the pathogenesis of leptospirosis.
Currently available vaccines against leptospirosis are of low efficacy, have an unacceptable side-effect profile, do not induce long-term protection, and provide no cross-protection against the different serovars of pathogenic leptospira. The current major focus in leptospirosis research is to discover conserved protective antigens that may elicit longer-term protection against a broad range of Leptospira. There is a need to screen vaccine candidate genes in the genome of Leptospira interrogans.
Bioinformatics, comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) analysis and transcriptional analysis were used to identify vaccine candidates in the genome of L. interrogans serovar Lai strain #56601. Of a total of 4727 open reading frames (ORFs), 616 genes were predicted to encode surface-exposed proteins by P-CLASSIFIER combined with signal peptide prediction, α-helix transmembrane topology prediction, integral β-barrel outer membrane protein and lipoprotein prediction, as well as by retaining the genes shared by the two sequenced L. interrogans genomes and by subtracting genes with human homologues. A DNA microarray of L. interrogans strain #56601 was constructed for CGH analysis and transcriptome analysis in vitro. Three hundred and seven differential genes were identified in ten pathogenic serovars by CGH; 1427 genes had high transcriptional levels (Cy3 signal ≥ 342 and Cy5 signal ≥ 363.5, respectively). There were 565 genes in the intersection between the set encoding surface-exposed proteins and the set of 307 differential genes. The number of genes in the intersection between this set of 565 and the set of 1427 highly transcriptionally active genes was 226. These 226 genes were thus identified as putative vaccine candidates. The proteins encoded by these genes are not only potentially surface-exposed in the bacterium, but also conserved in two sequenced L. interrogans. Moreover, these genes are conserved among ten epidemic serovars in China and have high transcriptional levels in vitro.
Of the 4727 ORFs in the genome of L. interrogans, 226 genes were identified as vaccine candidates by bioinformatics, CGH and transcriptional analysis on the basis of the theory of reverse vaccinology. The proteins encoded by these genes might be useful as vaccine candidates as well as for diagnosis of leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis is a global zoonosis affecting millions of people annually. Transcriptional changes in response to temperature were previously investigated using microarrays to identify genes potentially expressed upon host entry. Past studies found that various leptospiral outer membrane proteins are differentially expressed at different temperatures. However, our microarray studies highlighted a divergence between protein abundance and transcript levels for some proteins. Given the abundance of post-transcriptional expression control mechanisms, this finding highlighted the importance of global protein analysis systems.
To complement our previous transcription study, we evaluated differences in the proteins of the leptospiral outer membrane fraction in response to temperature upshift. Outer membrane protein-enriched fractions from Leptospira interrogans grown at 30°C or overnight upshift to 37°C were isolated and the relative abundance of each protein was determined by iTRAQ analysis coupled with two-dimensional liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry (2-DLC/MS-MS). We identified 1026 proteins with 99% confidence; 27 and 66 were present at elevated and reduced abundance respectively. Protein abundance changes were compared with transcriptional differences determined from the microarray studies. While there was some correlation between the microarray and iTRAQ data, a subset of genes that showed no differential expression by microarray was found to encode temperature-regulated proteins. This set of genes is of particular interest as it is likely that regulation of their expression occurs post-transcriptionally, providing an opportunity to develop hypotheses about the molecular dynamics of the outer membrane of Leptospira in response to changing environments.
This is the first study to compare transcriptional and translational responses to temperature shift in L. interrogans. The results thus provide an insight into the mechanisms used by L. interrogans to adapt to conditions encountered in the host and to cause disease. Our results suggest down-regulation of protein expression in response to temperature, and decreased expression of outer membrane proteins may facilitate minimal interaction with host immune mechanisms.
Leptospirosis, caused by Leptospira spp., is a disease of worldwide significance affecting millions of people annually. Bacteria of this species are spread by various carrier animals, including rodents and domestic livestock, which shed the leptospires via their urine into the environment. Humans become infected through direct contact with carrier animals or indirectly via contaminated water or soil. Temperature is a key trigger used by many bacteria to sense changes in environmental conditions, including entry from the environment into the host. This study was the first comprehensive research into changes occurring in the outer membrane of Leptospira in response to temperature and how these changes correlate with gene expression changes. An understanding of the regulation and function of these proteins is important as they may provide an adaptation and survival advantage for the microorganism which may enhance its ability to infect hosts and cause disease. Our data suggest regulation of proteins in the outer membrane which may possibly be a mechanism to minimise interactions with the host immune response.
Serology plays an important role in the diagnosis of leptospirosis. Few laboratories have the resources, expertise, or facilities to perform the microscopic agglutination test (MAT). Thus, there is a need for a rapid and simple serological test that could be used in any diagnostic laboratory. In this study, a genus-specific, heat-stable antigenic preparation from Leptospira interrogans serovar pomona was used in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the detection of leptospiral antibodies in dog sera. This antigenic preparation reacted with rabbit antisera against L. interrogans serovars bratislava, autumnalis, icterohaemorrhagiae and pomona and with rabbit antiserum against L. kirschneri serovar grippotyphosa. The ELISA showed a relative specificity of 95.6% with 158 dog sera which were negative at a dilution of 1:100 in the MAT for serovars pomona, bratislava, icterohaemorrhagiae, autumnalis, hardjo, and grippotyphosa. The relative sensitivity of this assay with 21 dog sera that revealed serovars MAT titres of > or =100 to different serovars was 100%. This assay is easily standardized, technically more advantageous than MAT, and uses an antigenic preparation that can be routinely prepared in large amounts. It was concluded that this ELISA is sufficiently sensitive test to be used as an initial screening test for the detection of leptospiral antibodies in canine sera, with subsequent confirmation of positive test results with the MAT.
The immunogenicity of leptospiral whole cell (WC) and outer envelope (OE) vaccines from virulent and avirulent strains was compared in hamsters. The 50% protective dose against death (PD50D) and kidney infection (PD50K) was evaluated for serotypes icterohaemorrhagiae, canicola, pomona, and grippotyphosa. The OE and WC of virulent strains possessed greater immunogenicity than the OE and WC of avirulent strains. More vaccine (<0.1 to 11.0 μg [dry weight] per hamster) was required for the PD50K than for the PD50D (<0.1 to 1.7 μg [dry weight] per hamster). The OE from virulent strains of these four serotypes plus hardjo were combined to form a pentavalent OE vaccine which proved to be satisfactory in immunogenic potency. Duration of immunity was not evaluated.
Pathogenic leptospires have the ability to survive and disseminate to multiple organs after penetrating the host. Several pathogens, including spirochetes, have been shown to express surface proteins that interact with the extracellular matrix (ECM). This adhesin-mediated binding process seems to be a crucial step in the colonization of host tissues. This study examined the interaction of putative leptospiral outer membrane proteins with laminin, collagen type I, collagen type IV, cellular fibronectin, and plasma fibronectin. Six predicted coding sequences selected from the Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni genome were cloned, and proteins were expressed, purified by metal affinity chromatography, and characterized by circular dichroism spectroscopy. Their capacity to mediate attachment to ECM components was evaluated by binding assays. We have identified a leptospiral protein encoded by LIC12906, named Lsa24 (leptospiral surface adhesin; 24 kDa) that binds strongly to laminin. Attachment of Lsa24 to laminin was specific, dose dependent, and saturable. Laminin oxidation by sodium metaperiodate reduced the protein-laminin interaction in a concentration-dependent manner, indicating that laminin sugar moieties are crucial for this interaction. Triton X-114-solubilized extract of L. interrogans and phase partitioning showed that Lsa24 was exclusively in the detergent phase, indicating that it is a component of the leptospiral membrane. Moreover, Lsa24 partially inhibited leptospiral adherence to immobilized laminin. This newly identified membrane protein may play a role in mediating adhesion of L. interrogans to the host. To our knowledge, this is the first leptospiral adhesin with laminin-binding properties reported to date.