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1.  Protection against Lethal Leptospirosis after Vaccination with LipL32 Coupled or Coadministered with the B Subunit of Escherichia coli Heat-Labile Enterotoxin 
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.
doi:10.1128/CVI.05720-11
PMCID: PMC3346321  PMID: 22379066
2.  Evaluation of Immunoprotective Activity of Six Leptospiral Proteins in the Hamster Model of Leptospirosis 
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.
doi:10.2174/1874285801206010079
PMCID: PMC3502890  PMID: 23173023
Leptospira interrogans; leptospirosis; recombinant protein; vaccine.
3.  A LigA Three-Domain Region Protects Hamsters from Lethal Infection by Leptospira interrogans 
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001422
PMCID: PMC3236721  PMID: 22180800
4.  Cross-protective Immunity Against Leptospirosis Elicited by a Live, Attenuated Lipopolysaccharide Mutant 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;203(6):870-879.
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.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jiq127
PMCID: PMC3071135  PMID: 21220775
5.  The terminal portion of leptospiral immunoglobulin-like protein LigA confers protective immunity against lethal infection in the hamster model of leptospirosis 
Vaccine  2007;25(33):6277-6286.
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.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2007.05.053
PMCID: PMC1994161  PMID: 17629368
Leptospirosis; subunit vaccine; Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like protein; recombinant protein; immunity; antibodies; hamsters
6.  Evaluation of Leptospiral Recombinant Antigens MPL17 and MPL21 for Serological Diagnosis of Leptospirosis by Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays ▿  
Clinical and Vaccine Immunology : CVI  2008;15(11):1715-1722.
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.
doi:10.1128/CVI.00214-08
PMCID: PMC2583518  PMID: 18799647
7.  CHARACTERIZATION OF VIRULENCE OF Leptospira ISOLATES IN A HAMSTER MODEL 
Vaccine  2008;26(31):3892-3896.
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.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2008.04.085
PMCID: PMC2519131  PMID: 18547690
Leptospira; leptospirosis; lethal dose; isolation; animal model; virulence
8.  The Novel Leptospiral Surface Adhesin Lsa20 Binds Laminin and Human Plasminogen and Is Probably Expressed during Infection▿ 
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(11):4657-4667.
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.
doi:10.1128/IAI.05583-11
PMCID: PMC3257903  PMID: 21844229
9.  An imprint method for detecting leptospires in the hamster model of vaccine-mediated immunity for leptospirosis 
Journal of Medical Microbiology  2009;58(Pt 12):1632-1637.
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.
doi:10.1099/jmm.0.014050-0
PMCID: PMC2887544  PMID: 19679685
10.  Leptospira and Inflammation 
Mediators of Inflammation  2012;2012:317950.
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.
doi:10.1155/2012/317950
PMCID: PMC3485547  PMID: 23132959
11.  Characterization of Novel OmpA-Like Protein of Leptospira interrogans That Binds Extracellular Matrix Molecules and Plasminogen 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e21962.
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021962
PMCID: PMC3130794  PMID: 21755014
12.  A Conserved Region of Leptospiral Immunoglobulin-Like A and B Proteins as a DNA Vaccine Elicits a Prophylactic Immune Response against Leptospirosis 
The leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) proteins LigA and LigB possess immunoglobulin-like domains with 90-amino-acid repeats and are adhesion molecules involved in pathogenicity. They are conserved in pathogenic Leptospira spp. and thus are of interest for use as serodiagnostic antigens and in recombinant vaccine formulations. The N-terminal amino acid sequences of the LigA and LigB proteins are identical, but the C-terminal sequences vary. In this study, we evaluated the protective potential of five truncated forms of LigA and LigB proteins from Leptospira interrogans serovar Canicola as DNA vaccines using the pTARGET mammalian expression vector. Hamsters immunized with the DNA vaccines were subjected to a heterologous challenge with L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni strain Spool via the intraperitoneal route. Immunization with a DNA vaccine encoding LigBrep resulted in the survival of 5/8 (62.5%) hamsters against lethal infection (P < 0.05). None of the control hamsters or animals immunized with the other vaccine preparations survived. The vaccine induced an IgG antibody response and, additionally, conferred sterilizing immunity in 80% of the surviving animals. Our results indicate that the LigBrep DNA vaccine is a promising candidate for inclusion in a protective leptospiral vaccine.
doi:10.1128/CVI.00601-12
PMCID: PMC3647749  PMID: 23486420
13.  A Prime-Boost Strategy Using the Novel Vaccine Candidate, LemA, Protects Hamsters against Leptospirosis 
Toward developing an effective vaccine capable of conferring heterologous protection, the putative lipoprotein LemA, which presents an M3 epitope similar to that of Listeria, was evaluated as a vaccine candidate in the hamster model of leptospirosis. LemA is conserved (>70% pairwise identity) among the pathogenic Leptospira spp., indicating its potential in stimulating a cross-protective immune response. Using different vaccination strategies, including prime-boost, DNA vaccine, and a subunit preparation, recombinant LemA conferred different levels of protection in hamsters. Significant protection against mortality was observed for the prime-boost and the DNA vaccine strategies, which showed 87.5% (P < 0.01) and 62.5% (P < 0.05) efficacy, respectively. Although the subunit vaccine preparation protected 50.0% of immunized hamsters, the level of protection was not significant. None of the hamsters in the control groups survived challenge with a virulent strain of Leptospira interrogans serogroup Icterohaemorrhagiae. Characterization of the immune response found that the strongest antibody response was stimulated by the subunit vaccine preparation, followed by the prime-boost strategy. The DNA vaccine failed to elicit an antibody response in immunized hamsters.
doi:10.1128/CVI.00034-13
PMCID: PMC3647757  PMID: 23515012
14.  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.
doi:10.1128/IAI.71.5.2414-2421.2003
PMCID: PMC153295  PMID: 12704111
15.  Adhesins of Leptospira interrogans Mediate the Interaction to Fibrinogen and Inhibit Fibrin Clot Formation In Vitro 
We report in this work that Leptospira strains, virulent L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni, attenuated L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni and saprophytic L. biflexa serovar Patoc are capable of binding fibrinogen (Fg). The interaction of leptospires with Fg inhibits thrombin- induced fibrin clot formation that may affect the haemostatic equilibrium. Additionally, we show that plasminogen (PLG)/plasmin (PLA) generation on the surface of Leptospira causes degradation of human Fg. The data suggest that PLA-coated leptospires were capable to employ their proteolytic activity to decrease one substrate of the coagulation cascade. We also present six leptospiral adhesins and PLG- interacting proteins, rLIC12238, Lsa33, Lsa30, OmpL1, rLIC11360 and rLIC11975, as novel Fg-binding proteins. The recombinant proteins interact with Fg in a dose-dependent and saturable fashion when increasing protein concentration was set to react to a fix human Fg concentration. The calculated dissociation equilibrium constants (KD) of these reactions ranged from 733.3±276.8 to 128±89.9 nM for rLIC12238 and Lsa33, respectively. The interaction of recombinant proteins with human Fg resulted in inhibition of fibrin clot by thrombin-catalyzed reaction, suggesting that these versatile proteins could mediate Fg interaction in Leptospira. Our data reveal for the first time the inhibition of fibrin clot by Leptospira spp. and presents adhesins that could mediate these interactions. Decreasing fibrin clot would cause an imbalance of the coagulation cascade that may facilitate bleeding and help bacteria dissemination
Author Summary
Leptospirosis is probably the most widespread zoonosis in the world. Caused by spirochaetes of the genus Leptospira, it has greater incidence in tropical and subtropical regions. The disease has become prevalent in cities with sanitation problems and a large population of urban rodent reservoirs, which contaminate the environment through their urine. Understanding the mechanisms involved in pathogenesis of leptospirosis should contribute to new strategies that would help fight the disease. We show in this work that Leptospira strains, virulent, attenuated or saprophytic are capable of binding fibrinogen (Fg). The interaction of leptospires with Fg inhibits the formation of fibrin clot that may result of an imbalance in the haemostatic equilibrium. In addition, we show that plasminogen (PLG)/plasmin (PLA) generation on the surface of leptospires can lead to Fg degradation, showing evidence of possible route of fibrinolysis in leptospirosis. We also present six leptospiral proteins, as novel Fg-binding proteins, capable of inhibiting fibrin clot formation by thrombin-catalyzed reaction, suggesting that in Leptospira these multifunctional proteins could mediate Fg interaction. Our data suggest possible mechanisms that leptospires could employ to affect the coagulation cascade and fibrinolytic system that might lead to bacteria spreading.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002396
PMCID: PMC3757074  PMID: 24009788
16.  Leptospira Interrogans Induces Fibrosis in the Mouse Kidney through Inos-Dependent, TLR- and NLR-Independent Signaling Pathways 
Background
Leptospira (L.) interrogans are bacteria responsible for a worldwide reemerging zoonosis. Rodents carry L. interrogans asymptomatically in their kidneys and excrete bacteria in the urine, contaminating the environment. Humans get infected through skin contact and develop a mild or severe leptospirosis that may lead to renal failure and fibrosis. L. interrogans provoke an interstitial nephritis, but the induction of fibrosis caused by L. interrogans has not been studied in murine models. Innate immune receptors from the TLR and NLR families have recently been shown to play a role in the development and progression of tissue fibrosis in the lung, liver and kidneys under different pathophysiological situations. We recently showed that TLR2, TLR4, and NLRP3 receptors were crucial in the defense against leptospirosis. Moreover, infection of a human cell line with L. interrogans was shown to induce TLR2-dependent production of fibronectin, a component of the extracellular matrix. Therefore, we thought to assess the presence of renal fibrosis in L. interrogans infected mice and to analyze the contribution of some innate immune pathways in this process.
Methodology/principal findings
Here, we characterized by immunohistochemical studies and quantitative real-time PCR, a model of Leptospira-infected C57BL/6J mice, with chronic carriage of L. interrogans inducing mild renal fibrosis. Using various strains of transgenic mice, we determined that the renal infiltrates of T cells and, unexpectedly, TLR and NLR receptors, are not required to generate Leptospira-induced renal fibrosis. We also show that the iNOS enzyme, known to play a role in Leptospira-induced interstitial nephritis, also plays a role in the induction of renal fibrosis.
Conclusion/significance
To our knowledge, this work provides the first experimental murine model of sustained renal fibrosis induced by a chronic bacterial infection that may be peculiar, since it does not rely on TLR or NLR receptors. This model may prove useful to test future therapeutic strategies to combat Leptospira-induced renal lesions.
Author Summary
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease transmitted by asymptomatic rodents to humans. The symptoms may be mild, or severe with kidney failure. Renal fibrosis, occurring during inflammatory situations, is characterized by the pathological accumulation of extra-cellular matrix components and can compromise the kidney functions of patients with leptospirosis. Recent research revealed that both innate and adaptive immune responses are involved in the establishment of fibrosis, in several organs and in different pathophysiological situations. In the present study, we characterized a mouse model of chronic infection with Leptospira that provokes mild renal fibrosis. We show that fibrogenesis requires the presence of live Leptospira in the kidney and that B and T cells from the adaptive immune response do not participate in the induction of renal fibrosis. Unexpectedly, we also found that innate immune receptors, TLRs and NLRs, are not involved in the Leptospira-induced fibrosis. Finally, we show that the enzyme responsible for NO production, iNOS, known to participate in renal inflammatory lesions induced by Leptospira, is also involved in renal fibrosis. Our work provides a novel mouse model to study fibrosis occurring due to leptospirosis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002664
PMCID: PMC3907306  PMID: 24498450
17.  Leptospira interrogans Enolase Is Secreted Extracellularly and Interacts with Plasminogen  
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78150.
Leptospira interrogans is the agent for leptospirosis, an important zoonosis in humans and animals across the globe. Surface proteins of invading pathogens, such as L. interrogans, are thought to be responsible for successful microbial persistence in vivo via interaction with specific host components. In particular, a number of invasive infectious agents exploit host proteolytic pathways, such as one involving plasminogen (Pg), which aid in efficient pathogen dissemination within the host. Here we show that L. interrogans serovar Lai binds host Pg and that the leptospiral gene product LA1951, annotated as enolase, is involved in this interaction. Interestingly, unlike in related pathogenic Spirochetes, such as Borrelia burgdorferi, LA1951 is not readily detectable in the L. interrogans outer membrane. We show that the antigen is indeed secreted extracellularly; however, it can reassociate with the pathogen surface, where it displays Pg-binding and measurable enzymatic activity. Hamsters infected with L. interrogans also develop readily detectable antibody responses against enolase. Taken together, our results suggest that the L. interrogans enolase has evolved to play a role in pathogen interaction with host molecules, which may contribute to the pathogenesis of leptospirosis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078150
PMCID: PMC3799732  PMID: 24205133
18.  Immunogenicity of boiled compared with formalized leptospiral vaccines in rabbits, hamsters and humans. 
The Journal of Hygiene  1980;84(1):1-10.
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.
PMCID: PMC2133829  PMID: 7188698
19.  Leptospiral Outer Membrane Protein Microarray, a Novel Approach to Identification of Host Ligand-Binding Proteins 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(22):6074-6087.
Leptospirosis is a zoonosis with worldwide distribution caused by pathogenic spirochetes belonging to the genus Leptospira. The leptospiral life cycle involves transmission via freshwater and colonization of the renal tubules of their reservoir hosts. Infection requires adherence to cell surfaces and extracellular matrix components of host tissues. These host-pathogen interactions involve outer membrane proteins (OMPs) expressed on the bacterial surface. In this study, we developed an Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni strain Fiocruz L1-130 OMP microarray containing all predicted lipoproteins and transmembrane OMPs. A total of 401 leptospiral genes or their fragments were transcribed and translated in vitro and printed on nitrocellulose-coated glass slides. We investigated the potential of this protein microarray to screen for interactions between leptospiral OMPs and fibronectin (Fn). This approach resulted in the identification of the recently described fibronectin-binding protein, LIC10258 (MFn8, Lsa66), and 14 novel Fn-binding proteins, denoted Microarray Fn-binding proteins (MFns). We confirmed Fn binding of purified recombinant LIC11612 (MFn1), LIC10714 (MFn2), LIC11051 (MFn6), LIC11436 (MFn7), LIC10258 (MFn8, Lsa66), and LIC10537 (MFn9) by far-Western blot assays. Moreover, we obtained specific antibodies to MFn1, MFn7, MFn8 (Lsa66), and MFn9 and demonstrated that MFn1, MFn7, and MFn9 are expressed and surface exposed under in vitro growth conditions. Further, we demonstrated that MFn1, MFn4 (LIC12631, Sph2), and MFn7 enable leptospires to bind fibronectin when expressed in the saprophyte, Leptospira biflexa. Protein microarrays are valuable tools for high-throughput identification of novel host ligand-binding proteins that have the potential to play key roles in the virulence mechanisms of pathogens.
doi:10.1128/JB.01119-12
PMCID: PMC3486348  PMID: 22961849
20.  Global Analysis of Outer Membrane Proteins from Leptospira interrogans Serovar Lai  
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(5):2311-2318.
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.
doi:10.1128/IAI.70.5.2311-2318.2002
PMCID: PMC127947  PMID: 11953365
21.  Leptospiral LruA Is Required for Virulence and Modulates an Interaction with Mammalian Apolipoprotein AI 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(10):3872-3879.
Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonosis caused by spirochetes of the genus Leptospira. While understanding of pathogenesis remains limited, the development of mutagenesis in Leptospira has provided a powerful tool for identifying novel virulence factors. LruA is a lipoprotein that has been implicated in leptospiral uveitis as a target of the immune response. In this study, two lruA mutants, M754 and M765, generated by transposon mutagenesis from Leptospira interrogans serovar Manilae, were characterized. In M754, the transposon inserted in the middle of lruA, resulting in no detectable expression of LruA. In M765, the transposon inserted toward the 3′ end of the gene, resulting in expression of a truncated protein. LruA was demonstrated to be on the cell surface in M765 and the wild type (WT). M754, but not M765, was attenuated in a hamster model of acute infection. A search for differential binding to human serum proteins identified a serum protein of around 30 kDa bound to the wild type and the LruA deletion mutant (M754), but not to the LruA truncation mutant (M765). Two-dimensional separation of proteins from leptospiral cells incubated with guinea pig serum identified the 28-kDa apolipoprotein A-I (ApoA-I) as a major mammalian serum protein that binds Leptospira in vitro. Interestingly, M754 (with no detectable LruA) bound more ApoA-I than did the LruA-expressing strains Manilae wild type and M765. Our data thus identify LruA as a surface-exposed leptospiral virulence factor that contributes to leptospiral pathogenesis, possibly by modulating cellular interactions with serum protein ApoA-I.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01195-12
PMCID: PMC3811782  PMID: 23918777
22.  Proteome Analysis of Leptospira interrogans Virulent Strain 
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.
doi:10.2174/1874285800903010069
PMCID: PMC2698427  PMID: 19590580
Leptospira interrogans; leptospirosis; proteomics.
23.  In Vitro Identification of Novel Plasminogen-Binding Receptors of the Pathogen Leptospira interrogans 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11259.
Background
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.
Methodology/Principal Findings
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.
Conclusions/Significance
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011259
PMCID: PMC2889836  PMID: 20582320
24.  Comparative Transcriptional and Translational Analysis of Leptospiral Outer Membrane Protein Expression in Response to Temperature 
Background
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.
Methodology/Principal Findings
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.
Conclusions/Significance
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000560
PMCID: PMC2780356  PMID: 19997626
25.  Immunoprotection of Recombinant Leptospiral Immunoglobulin-Like Protein A against Leptospira interrogans Serovar Pomona Infection  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(3):1745-1750.
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.
doi:10.1128/IAI.74.3.1745-1750.2006
PMCID: PMC1418682  PMID: 16495547

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