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1.  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
2.  Leptospiral Outer Membrane Proteins OmpL1 and LipL41 Exhibit Synergistic Immunoprotection 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(12):6572-6582.
New vaccine strategies are needed for prevention of leptospirosis, a widespread human and veterinary disease caused by invasive spirochetes belonging to the genus Leptospira. We have examined the immunoprotective capacity of the leptospiral porin OmpL1 and the leptospiral outer membrane lipoprotein LipL41 in the Golden Syrian hamster model of leptospirosis. Specialized expression plasmids were developed to facilitate expression of leptospiral proteins in Escherichia coli as the membrane-associated proteins OmpL1-M and LipL41-M. Although OmpL1-M expression is highly toxic in E. coli, this was accomplished by using plasmid pMMB66-OmpL1, which has undetectable background expression without induction. LipL41-M expression and processing were enhanced by altering its lipoprotein signal peptidase cleavage site to mimic that of the murein lipoprotein. Active immunization of hamsters with E. coli membrane fractions containing a combination of OmpL1-M and LipL41-M was found to provide significant protection against homologous challenge with Leptospira kirschneri serovar grippotyphosa. At 28 days after intraperitoneal inoculation, survival in animals vaccinated with both proteins was 71% (95% confidence interval [CI], 53 to 89%), compared with only 25% (95% CI, 8 to 42%) in the control group (P < 0.001). On the basis of serological, histological, and microbiological assays, no evidence of infection was found in the vaccinated survivors. The protective effects of immunization with OmpL1-M and LipL41-M were synergistic, since significant levels of protection were not observed in animals immunized with either OmpL1-M or LipL41-M alone. In contrast to immunization with the membrane-associated forms of leptospiral proteins, hamsters immunized with His6-OmpL1 and His6-LipL41 fusion proteins, either alone or in combination, were not protected. These data indicate that the manner in which OmpL1 and LipL41 associates with membranes is an important determinant of immunoprotection.
PMCID: PMC97069  PMID: 10569777
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  Vaccination with Leptospiral Outer Membrane Lipoprotein LipL32 Reduces Kidney Invasion of Leptospira interrogans Serovar Canicola in Hamsters 
The Leptospira interrogans vaccines currently available are serovar specific and require regular booster immunizations to maintain protection of the host. In addition, a hamster challenge batch potency test is necessary to evaluate these vaccines prior to market release, requiring the use of a large number of animals, which is ethically and financially undesirable. Our previous work showed that the N terminus of the outer membrane protein LipL32 was altered in Leptospira interrogans serovar Canicola vaccines that fail the hamster challenge test, suggesting that it may be involved in the protective immune response. The aim of this study was to determine if vaccination with LipL32 protein alone could provide a protective response against challenge with L. interrogans serovar Canicola to hamsters. Recombinant LipL32, purified from an Escherichia coli expression system, was assessed for protective immunity in five groups of hamsters (n = 5) following a challenge with the virulent L. interrogans serovar Canicola strain Kito as a challenge strain. However, no significant survival against the L. interrogans serovar Canicola challenge was observed compared to that of unvaccinated negative controls. Subsequent histological analysis revealed reduced amounts of L. interrogans in the kidneys from the hamsters vaccinated with recombinant LipL32 protein prior to challenge; however, no significant survival against the L. interrogans serovar Canicola challenge was observed compared to that of unvaccinated negative controls. This finding corresponded to a noticeably reduced severity of renal lesions. This study provides evidence that LipL32 is involved in the protective response against L. interrogans serovar Canicola in hamsters and is the first reported link to LipL32-induced protection against kidney invasion.
PMCID: PMC3993109  PMID: 24521782
8.  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
9.  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
10.  LipL46 is a novel surface-exposed lipoprotein expressed during leptospiral dissemination in the mammalian host 
Microbiology (Reading, England)  2006;152(Pt 12):3777-3786.
Leptospirosis is a widespread zoonosis caused by invasive spirochaetes belonging to the genus Leptospira. Pathogenic leptospires disseminate via the bloodstream to colonize the renal tubules of reservoir hosts. Little is known about leptospiral outer-membrane proteins expressed during the dissemination stage of infection. In this study, a novel surface-exposed lipoprotein is described; it has been designated LipL46 to distinguish it from a previously described 31 kDa peripheral membrane protein, P31LipL45, which is exported as a 45 kDa probable lipoprotein. The lipL46 gene encodes a 412 aa polypeptide with a 21 aa signal peptide. Lipid modification of cysteine at the lipoprotein signal peptidase cleavage site FSISC is supported by the finding that Leptospira interrogans intrinsically labels LipL46 during incubation in medium containing [14C]palmitate. LipL46 appears to be exported to the leptospiral outer membrane as a 46 kDa lipoprotein, based on Triton X-114 solubilization and phase partitioning studies, which included the outer and inner membrane controls LipL32 and LipL31, respectively. Surface immunoprecipitation and whole-cell ELISA experiments indicate that LipL46 is exposed on the leptospiral surface. Immunohistochemistry studies demonstrated expression of LipL46 by leptospires found in the bloodstream of acutely infected hamsters. Leptospires expressing LipL46 were also found in the intercellular spaces of the liver, within splenic phagocytes, and invading the glomerular hilum of the kidney. Infection-associated expression is supported by the finding that LipL46 is a major antigen recognized by sera from infected hamsters. These findings indicate that LipL46 may be important in leptospiral dissemination, and that it may serve as a useful serodiagnostic antigen.
PMCID: PMC2667200  PMID: 17159228
11.  Chimeric epitope vaccine against Leptospira interrogans infection and induced specific immunity in guinea pigs 
BMC Microbiology  2016;16:241.
Leptospirosis is an important reemerging zoonosis, with more than half a million cases reported annually, and is caused by pathogenic Leptospira species. Development of a universal vaccine is one of the major strategic goals to overcome the disease burden of leptospirosis. In this study, a chimeric multi-epitope protein-based vaccine was designed and tested for its potency to induce a specific immune response and provide protection against L. interrogans infection.
The protein, containing four repeats of six T- and B-cell combined epitopes from the leptospiral outer membrane proteins, OmpL1, LipL32 and LipL21, was expressed and purified. Western blot analysis showed that the recombinant protein (named r4R) mainly expressed in a soluble pattern, and reacted with antibodies raised in rabbit against heat-killed Leptospira and in guinea pigs against the r4R vaccine. Microscopic agglutination tests showed that r4R antisera was immunological cross-reactive with a range of Chinese standard reference strains of Leptospira belonging to different serogroups. In guinea pigs, the r4R vaccine induced a Th1-biased immune response, as reflected by the IgG2a/IgG1 ratio and cytokine production of stimulated splenocytes derived from immunized animals. Finally, r4R-immunized guinea pigs showed increased survival of lethal Leptospira challenges compared with PBS-immunized animals and tissue damage and leptospiral colonization of the kidney were reduced.
The multi-epitope chimeric r4R protein is a promising antigen for the development of a universal cross-reactive vaccine against leptospirosis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-016-0852-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5064800  PMID: 27737644
Leptospira; Outer membrane protein; Multi-epitope; Vaccine; Cross protection
12.  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.
PMCID: PMC127947  PMID: 11953365
13.  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
14.  Production and Characterization of a Polyclonal Antibody of Anti-rLipL21-IgG against Leptospira for Early Detection of Acute Leptospirosis 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:592858.
Leptospirosis is one of the zoonotic diseases in animals and humans throughout the world. LipL21 is one of the important surface-exposed lipoproteins in leptospires and the most effective cross protective immunogenic antigen. It is widely considered as a diagnostic marker for leptospirosis. In this study, we evaluated the serodiagnostic potential of LipL21 protein of Leptospira interrogans serovar Pomona. We have successfully amplified, cloned, and expressed LipL21 in E. coli and evaluated its specificity by immunoblotting. Purified recombinant LipL21 (rLipL21) was inoculated into rabbits for the production of polyclonal antibody. Characterization of the purified IgG antibody against rLipL21 was performed by cross reactivity assay. Only sera from leptospirosis patients and rabbit hyperimmune sera recognized rLipL21 while the nonleptospirosis control sera showed no reaction in immunoblotting. We confirmed that anti-rLipL21-IgG antibody cross reacted with and detected only pathogenic leptospiral species and it did not react with nonpathogenic leptospires and other bacterial species. Results observed showed that anti-rLipL21-IgG antibody has high specificity and sensitivity to leptospires. The findings indicated that the antibody could be used in a diagnostic assay for detection of leptospires or their proteins in the early phase of infection.
PMCID: PMC4016889  PMID: 24860824
15.  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
16.  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.
PMCID: PMC3071135  PMID: 21220775
17.  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
18.  Immunogenicity of a novel enhanced consensus DNA vaccine encoding the leptospiral protein LipL45 
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics  2015;11(8):1945-1953.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial zoonotic disease caused by an infection with a spirochete belonging to the genus Leptospira. In animals, leptospirosis displays a wide range of pathologies, including fever, abortion, icterus, and uveitis. Conversely, infection in humans is associated with multi-organ injury, resulting in an increased rate of fatalities. Pathogenic leptospires are able to translocate through cell monolayers at a rate significantly greater than that of non-pathogenic leptospires. Thus, vaccine approaches have been focused on targeting bacterial motility, lipopolysaccharides (LPSs), lipoproteins, outer-membrane proteins (OMPs) and other potential virulence factors. Previous studies have indicated that leptospiral proteins elicit long-lasting immunological memory in infected humans. In the study reported here, the efficacy of a synthetic consensus DNA vaccine developed against the Leptospira membrane lipoprotein LipL45 was tested. After in vivo electroporation (EP) mediated intramuscular immunization with a synthetic LipL45 DNA vaccine (pLipL45) immunized mice developed a significant cellular response along with the development of anti-LipL45-specific antibodies. Specifically, the pLipL45 vaccine induced a significant Th1 type immune response, indicated by the higher production of IL-12 and IFN-γ cytokines. The results presented here are the first demonstration that a LipL45 based DNA immunogen has potential as a anti-Leptospira vaccine.
PMCID: PMC4635901  PMID: 26020621
DNA vaccine; electroporation; leptospirosis; LipL45; Th1 immune response
19.  Leptospiral Outer Membrane Protein LipL41 Is Not Essential for Acute Leptospirosis but Requires a Small Chaperone Protein, Lep, for Stable Expression 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(8):2768-2776.
Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonosis caused by pathogenic Leptospira spp., but knowledge of leptospiral pathogenesis remains limited. However, the development of mutagenesis systems has allowed the investigation of putative virulence factors and their involvement in leptospirosis. LipL41 is the third most abundant lipoprotein found in the outer membranes of pathogenic leptospires and has been considered a putative virulence factor. LipL41 is encoded on the large chromosome 28 bp upstream of a small open reading frame encoding a hypothetical protein of unknown function. This gene was named lep, for LipL41 expression partner. In this study, lipL41 was found to be cotranscribed with lep. Two transposon mutants were characterized: a lipL41 mutant and a lep mutant. In the lep mutant, LipL41 protein levels were reduced by approximately 90%. Lep was shown through cross-linking and coexpression experiments to bind to LipL41. Lep is proposed to be a molecular chaperone essential for the stable expression of LipL41. The roles of LipL41 and Lep in the pathogenesis of Leptospira interrogans were investigated; surprisingly, neither of these two unique proteins was essential for acute leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC3719587  PMID: 23690405
20.  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.
PMCID: PMC2698427  PMID: 19590580
Leptospira interrogans; leptospirosis; proteomics.
21.  High yield expression of leptospirosis vaccine candidates LigA and LipL32 in the methylotrophic yeast Pichia pastoris 
Leptospirosis, a zoonosis caused by Leptospira spp., is recognized as an emergent infectious disease. Due to the lack of adequate diagnostic tools, vaccines are an attractive intervention strategy. Recombinant proteins produced in Escherichia coli have demonstrated promising results, albeit with variable efficacy. Pichia pastoris is an alternative host with several advantages for the production of recombinant proteins.
The vaccine candidates LigANI and LipL32 were cloned and expressed in P. pastoris as secreted proteins. Large-scale expression resulted in a yield of 276 mg/L for LigANI and 285 mg/L for LipL32. The recombinant proteins were glycosylated and were recognized by antibodies present in the sera of patients with severe leptospirosis.
The expression of LigANI and LipL32 in P. pastoris resulted in a significant increase in yield compared to expression in E. coli. In addition, the proteins were secreted, allowing for easy purification, and retained the antigenic characteristics of the native proteins, demonstrating their potential application as subunit vaccine candidates.
PMCID: PMC3004844  PMID: 21134266
22.  Cloning and Sequence Analysis of LipL32, a Surface–Exposed Lipoprotein of Pathogenic Leptospira Spp 
Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonosis caused by pathogenic Leptospira species. A major challenge of this disease is the application of basic research to improve diagnostic methods and related vaccine development. Outer membrane proteins of Leptospira are potential candidates that may be useful as diagnostic or immunogenic factors in treatment and analysis of the disease.
To develop an effective subunit vaccine against prevalent pathogenic Leptospira species, we sequenced and analyzed the LipL32 gene from three different Leptospira interrogans (L.interrogans) vaccinal serovars in Iran.
Materials and Methods
Following DNA extraction from these three serovars, the related LipL32 genes were amplified and cloned in the pTZ57R/T vector. Recombinant clones were confirmed by colony- PCR and DNA sequencing. The related sequences were subjected to homology analysis by comparing them to sequences in the Genbank database.
The LipL32 sequences were >94% homologous among the vaccinal and other pathogenic Leptospira serovars in GenBank. This result indicates the conservation of this gene within the pathogenic Leptospires.
The cloned gene in this study may provide a potentially suitable platform for development of a variety of applications such as serological diagnostic tests or recombinant vaccines against leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC3971780  PMID: 24719688
Leptospirosis; Leptospira Interrogans; LipL32
23.  Leptospiral Proteins Recognized during the Humoral Immune Response to Leptospirosis in Humans 
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(8):4958-4968.
Leptospirosis is an emerging zoonosis caused by pathogenic spirochetes belonging to the genus Leptospira. An understanding of leptospiral protein expression regulation is needed to develop new immunoprotective and serodiagnostic strategies. We used the humoral immune response during human leptospirosis as a reporter of protein antigens expressed during infection. Qualitative and quantitative immunoblot analysis was performed using sera from 105 patients from Brazil and Barbados. Sera from patients with other diseases and healthy individuals were evaluated as controls. Seven proteins, p76, p62, p48, p45, p41, p37, and p32, were identified as targets of the humoral response during natural infection. In both acute and convalescent phases of illness, antibodies to lipopolysaccharide were predominantly immunoglobulin M (IgM) while antibodies to proteins were exclusively IgG. Anti-p32 reactivity had the greatest sensitivity and specificity: positive reactions were observed in 37 and 84% of acute- and convalescent-phase sera, respectively, while only 5% of community control individuals demonstrated positive reactions. Six immunodominant antigens were expressed by all pathogenic leptospiral strains tested; only p37 was inconsistently expressed. Two-dimensional immunoblots identified four of the seven infection-associated antigens as being previously characterized proteins: LipL32 (the major outer membrane lipoprotein), LipL41 (a surface-exposed outer membrane lipoprotein), and heat shock proteins GroEL and DnaK. Fractionation studies demonstrated LipL32 and LipL41 reactivity in the outer membrane fraction and GroEL and DnaK in the cytoplasmic fraction, while p37 appeared to be a soluble periplasmic protein. Most of the other immunodominant proteins, including p48 and p45, were localized to the inner membrane. These findings indicate that leptospiral proteins recognized during natural infection are potentially useful for serodiagnosis and may serve as targets for vaccine design.
PMCID: PMC98588  PMID: 11447174
24.  Evolutionary Implication of Outer Membrane Lipoprotein-Encoding Genes ompL1, lipL32 and lipL41 of Pathogenic Leptospira Species 
Leptospirosis is recognized as the most widespread zoonosis with a global distribution. In this study, the antigenic variation in Leptospira interrogans and Leptospira borgpetersenii isolated from human urine and field rat kidney was preliminarily confirmed by microscopic agglutination test using monoclonal antibodies, and was further subjected to amplification and identification of outer membrane lipoproteins with structural gene variation. Sequence similarity analysis revealed that these protein sequences, namely OmpL1, LipL32 and LipL41, showed no more homologies to outer membrane lipoproteins of non-pathogenic Leptospira and other closely related Spirochetes, but showed a strong identity within L. interrogans, suggesting intra-specific phylogenetic lineages that might be originated from a common pathogenic leptospiral origin. Moreover, the ompL1 gene showed more antigenic variation than lipL32 and lipL41 due to less conservation in secondary structural evolution within closely related species. Phylogenetically, ompL1 and lipL41 of these strains gave a considerable proximity to L. weilii and L. santarosai. The ompL1 gene of L. interrogans clustered distinctly from other pathogenic and non-pathogenic leptospiral species. The diversity of ompL genes has been analyzed and it envisaged that sequence-specific variations at antigenic determinant sites would result in slow evolutionary changes along with new serovar origination within closely related species. Thus, a crucial work on effective recombinant vaccine development and engineered antibodies will hopefully meet to solve the therapeutic challenges.
PMCID: PMC5054405  PMID: 19944382
Leptospira; ompL1; lipL32; lipL41; phylogeny; antigenic variation
25.  Transcriptional Responses of Leptospira interrogans to Host Innate Immunity: Significant Changes in Metabolism, Oxygen Tolerance, and Outer Membrane 
Leptospira interrogans is the major causative agent of leptospirosis. Phagocytosis plays important roles in the innate immune responses to L. interrogans infection, and L. interrogans can evade the killing of phagocytes. However, little is known about the adaptation of L. interrogans during this process.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To better understand the interaction of pathogenic Leptospira and innate immunity, we employed microarray and comparative genomics analyzing the responses of L. interrogans to macrophage-derived cells. During this process, L. interrogans altered expressions of many genes involved in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, energy production, signal transduction, transcription and translation, oxygen tolerance, and outer membrane proteins. Among them, the catalase gene expression was significantly up-regulated, suggesting it may contribute to resisting the oxidative pressure of the macrophages. The expressions of several major outer membrane protein (OMP) genes (e.g., ompL1, lipL32, lipL41, lipL48 and ompL47) were dramatically down-regulated (10–50 folds), consistent with previous observations that the major OMPs are differentially regulated in vivo. The persistent down-regulations of these major OMPs were validated by immunoblotting. Furthermore, to gain initial insight into the gene regulation mechanisms in L. interrogans, we re-defined the transcription factors (TFs) in the genome and identified the major OmpR TF gene (LB333) that is concurrently regulated with the major OMP genes, suggesting a potential role of LB333 in OMPs regulation.
This is the first report on global responses of pathogenic Leptospira to innate immunity, which revealed that the down-regulation of the major OMPs may be an immune evasion strategy of L. interrogans, and a putative TF may be involved in governing these down-regulations. Alterations of the leptospiral OMPs up interaction with host antigen-presenting cells (APCs) provide critical information for selection of vaccine candidates. In addition, genome-wide annotation and comparative analysis of TFs set a foundation for further studying regulatory networks in Leptospira spp.
Author Summary
Leptospirosis is an important tropical disease around the world, particularly in humid tropical and subtropical countries. As a major pathogen of this disease, Leptospira interrogans can be shed from the urine of reservoir hosts, survive in soil and water, and infect humans through broken skin or mucous membranes. Recently, host adaptability and immune evasion of L. interrogans to host innate immunity was partially elucidated in infection or animal models. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of L. interrogans in response to host innate immunity is required to learn the nature of early leptospirosis. This study focused on the transcriptome of L. interrogans during host immune cells interaction. Significant changes in energy metabolism, oxygen tolerance and outer membrane protein profile were identified as potential immune evasion strategies by pathogenic Leptospira during the early stage of infection. The major outer membrane proteins (OMPs) of L. interrogans may be regulated by the major OmpR specific transcription factor (LB333). These results provide a foundation for further studying the pathogenesis of leptospirosis, as well as identifying gene regulatory networks in Leptospira spp.
PMCID: PMC2964297  PMID: 21049008

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