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1.  A comparison of the endotoxin biosynthesis and protein oxidation pathways in the biogenesis of the outer membrane of Escherichia coli and Neisseria meningitidis 
The Gram-negative bacterial cell envelope consists of an inner membrane (IM) that surrounds the cytoplasm and an asymmetrical outer-membrane (OM) that forms a protective barrier to the external environment. The OM consists of lipopolysaccahride (LPS), phospholipids, outer membrane proteins (OMPs), and lipoproteins. Oxidative protein folding mediated by periplasmic oxidoreductases is required for the biogenesis of the protein components, mainly constituents of virulence determinants such as pili, flagella, and toxins, of the Gram-negative OM. Recently, periplasmic oxidoreductases have been implicated in LPS biogenesis of Escherichia coli and Neisseria meningitidis. Differences in OM biogenesis, in particular the transport pathways for endotoxin to the OM, the composition and role of the protein oxidation, and isomerization pathways and the regulatory networks that control them have been found in these two Gram-negative species suggesting that although form and function of the OM is conserved, the pathways required for the biosynthesis of the OM and the regulatory circuits that control them have evolved to suit the lifestyle of each organism.
PMCID: PMC3526765  PMID: 23267440
oxidoreductases; disulfide bonds; protein oxidation; protein isomerization; lipopolysaccharides (LPS); lipooligsaccharides (LOS); Neisseria meningitidis
2.  Cloning, expression, purification and crystallization of an endotoxin-biosynthesis enzyme from Neisseria meningitidis  
The cloning, expression, purification and crystallization of phosphoethanolamine transferase A, an endotoxin-modifying enzyme from N. meningitidis, are reported.
The enzyme phosphoethanolamine transferase A is involved in the addition of phosphoethanolamine moieties to lipid A in Neisseria meningitidis. The enzyme is composed of an N-terminal transmembrane domain and a C-terminal soluble domain that is present in the periplasm of the bacteria. A membrane-deletion construct of the enzyme was designed and expressed in Escherichia coli. Well ordered crystals that diffracted to 1.7 Å resolution were obtained by carrying out a limited trypsin digestion of the protein to remove a predicted N-­terminal disordered portion. The crystals belonged to space group P21, with unit-cell parameters a = 44.3, b = 71.6, c = 49.9 Å, β = 109.2°, and contained one molecule in the asymmetric unit.
PMCID: PMC3509972  PMID: 23192031
endotoxin biosynthesis; LptA; phosphoethanolamine transferase
3.  The Role of Oxidoreductases in Determining the Function of the Neisserial Lipid A Phosphoethanolamine Transferase Required for Resistance to Polymyxin 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106513.
The decoration of the lipid A headgroups of the lipooligosaccharide (LOS) by the LOS phosphoethanolamine (PEA) transferase (LptA) in Neisseria spp. is central for resistance to polymyxin. The structure of the globular domain of LptA shows that the protein has five disulphide bonds, indicating that it is a potential substrate of the protein oxidation pathway in the bacterial periplasm. When neisserial LptA was expressed in Escherichia coli in the presence of the oxidoreductase, EcDsbA, polymyxin resistance increased 30-fold. LptA decorated one position of the E. coli lipid A headgroups with PEA. In the absence of the EcDsbA, LptA was degraded in E. coli. Neisseria spp. express three oxidoreductases, DsbA1, DsbA2 and DsbA3, each of which appear to donate disulphide bonds to different targets. Inactivation of each oxidoreductase in N. meningitidis enhanced sensitivity to polymyxin with combinatorial mutants displaying an additive increase in sensitivity to polymyxin, indicating that the oxidoreductases were required for multiple pathways leading to polymyxin resistance. Correlates were sought between polymyxin sensitivity, LptA stability or activity and the presence of each of the neisserial oxidoreductases. Only meningococcal mutants lacking DsbA3 had a measurable decrease in the amount of PEA decoration on lipid A headgroups implying that LptA stability was supported by the presence of DsbA3 but did not require DsbA1/2 even though these oxidoreductases could oxidise the protein. This is the first indication that DsbA3 acts as an oxidoreductase in vivo and that multiple oxidoreductases may be involved in oxidising the one target in N. meningitidis. In conclusion, LptA is stabilised by disulphide bonds within the protein. This effect was more pronounced when neisserial LptA was expressed in E. coli than in N. meningitidis and may reflect that other factors in the neisserial periplasm have a role in LptA stability.
PMCID: PMC4162559  PMID: 25215579
4.  The Use of High-Throughput DNA Sequencing in the Investigation of Antigenic Variation: Application to Neisseria Species 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86704.
Antigenic variation occurs in a broad range of species. This process resembles gene conversion in that variant DNA is unidirectionally transferred from partial gene copies (or silent loci) into an expression locus. Previous studies of antigenic variation have involved the amplification and sequencing of individual genes from hundreds of colonies. Using the pilE gene from Neisseria gonorrhoeae we have demonstrated that it is possible to use PCR amplification, followed by high-throughput DNA sequencing and a novel assembly process, to detect individual antigenic variation events. The ability to detect these events was much greater than has previously been possible. In N. gonorrhoeae most silent loci contain multiple partial gene copies. Here we show that there is a bias towards using the copy at the 3′ end of the silent loci (copy 1) as the donor sequence. The pilE gene of N. gonorrhoeae and some strains of Neisseria meningitidis encode class I pilin, but strains of N. meningitidis from clonal complexes 8 and 11 encode a class II pilin. We have confirmed that the class II pili of meningococcal strain FAM18 (clonal complex 11) are non-variable, and this is also true for the class II pili of strain NMB from clonal complex 8. In addition when a gene encoding class I pilin was moved into the meningococcal strain NMB background there was no evidence of antigenic variation. Finally we investigated several members of the opa gene family of N. gonorrhoeae, where it has been suggested that limited variation occurs. Variation was detected in the opaK gene that is located close to pilE, but not at the opaJ gene located elsewhere on the genome. The approach described here promises to dramatically improve studies of the extent and nature of antigenic variation systems in a variety of species.
PMCID: PMC3899283  PMID: 24466206
5.  Attachment and Invasion of Neisseria meningitidis to Host Cells Is Related to Surface Hydrophobicity, Bacterial Cell Size and Capsule 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55798.
We compared exemplar strains from two hypervirulent clonal complexes, strain NMB-CDC from ST-8/11 cc and strain MC58 from ST-32/269 cc, in host cell attachment and invasion. Strain NMB-CDC attached to and invaded host cells at a significantly greater frequency than strain MC58. Type IV pili retained the primary role for initial attachment to host cells for both isolates regardless of pilin class and glycosylation pattern. In strain MC58, the serogroup B capsule was the major inhibitory determinant affecting both bacterial attachment to and invasion of host cells. Removal of terminal sialylation of lipooligosaccharide (LOS) in the presence of capsule did not influence rates of attachment or invasion for strain MC58. However, removal of either serogroup B capsule or LOS sialylation in strain NMB-CDC increased bacterial attachment to host cells to the same extent. Although the level of inhibition of attachment by capsule was different between these strains, the regulation of the capsule synthesis locus by the two-component response regulator MisR, and the level of surface capsule determined by flow cytometry were not significantly different. However, the diplococci of strain NMB-CDC were shown to have a 1.89-fold greater surface area than strain MC58 by flow cytometry. It was proposed that the increase in surface area without changing the amount of anchored glycolipid capsule in the outer membrane would result in a sparser capsule and increase surface hydrophobicity. Strain NMB-CDC was shown to be more hydrophobic than strain MC58 using hydrophobicity interaction chromatography and microbial adhesion-to-solvents assays. In conclusion, improved levels of adherence of strain NMB-CDC to cell lines was associated with increased bacterial cell surface and surface hydrophobicity. This study shows that there is diversity in bacterial cell surface area and surface hydrophobicity within N. meningitidis which influence steps in meningococcal pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3566031  PMID: 23405216
6.  Characterization of DsbD in Neisseria meningitidis 
Molecular microbiology  2011;79(6):1557-1573.
Proper periplasmic disulfide bond formation is important for folding and stability of many secreted and membrane proteins, and is catalyzed by three DsbA oxidoreductases in Neisseria meningitidis. DsbD provides reducing power to DsbC that shuffles incorrect disulfide bond in misfolded proteins as well as to the periplasmic enzymes that reduce apo-cytochrome c (CcsX) or repair oxidative protein damages (MrsAB). The expression of dsbD, but not other dsb genes, is positively regulated by the MisR/S two-component system. qRT-PCR analyses showed significantly reduced dsbD expression in all misR/S mutants, which was rescued by genetic complementation. The direct and specific interaction of MisR with the upstream region of the dsbD promoter was demonstrated by EMSA, and the MisR-binding sequences were mapped. Further, the expression of dsbD was found to be induced by dithiothrietol (DTT), through the MisR/S regulatory system. Surprisingly, we revealed that inactivation of dsbD can only be achieved in a strain carrying an ectopically located dsbD, in the dsbA1A2 double mutant or in the dsbA1A2A3 triple mutant, thus DsbD is indispensable for DsbA-catalyzed oxidative protein folding in N. meningitidis. The defects of the meningococcal dsbA1A2 mutant in transformation and resistance to oxidative stress were more severe in the absence of dsbD.
PMCID: PMC3088762  PMID: 21219471
Neisseria meningitidis; DsbD; MisRS; two-component regulatory system; DsbA
8.  The structure of the L9 immunotype lipooligosaccharide from Neisseria meningitidis NMA Z2491 
Carbohydrate research  2008;343(17):2971-2979.
The lipooligosaccharide (LOS) from the N. meningitidis prototype serogroup A strain NMA Z2491, an L9 immunotype LOS, was isolated and structurally characterized using glycosyl composition and linkage determination, mass spectrometry and both 1- and 2-D nuclear resonance spectroscopy. The results show that the L9 LOS has an identical structure to that of an L4 LOS structure with the exception that it does not contain a sialic acid residue linked to position 3 of the lactoneotetraose terminal galactosyl residue. Further, two oligosaccharides are present in the Z2491 LOS preparation, OS1 and OS2. They differ from one another only in that OS2 contains an added glycine moiety, presumably at O-7 on the inner core Hep II residue. The structures of these oligosaccharides are as follows: Where R = H or Gly.
PMCID: PMC2784147  PMID: 18804756
Neisseria meningitidis; NMA; L9 Immunotype; Lipooligosaccharide; LOS; Structure; Phosphoethanolamine
9.  Bench-to-bedside review: Bacterial virulence and subversion of host defences 
Critical Care  2008;12(6):234.
Bacterial pathogens possess an array of specific mechanisms that confer virulence and the capacity to avoid host defence mechanisms. Mechanisms of virulence are often mediated by the subversion of normal aspects of host biology. In this way the pathogen modifies host function so as to promote the pathogen's survival or proliferation. Such subversion is often mediated by the specific interaction of bacterial effector molecules with host encoded proteins and other molecules. The importance of these mechanisms for bacterial pathogens that cause infections leading to severe community-acquired infections is well established. In contrast, the importance of specialised mechanisms of virulence in the genesis of nosocomial bacterial infections, which occur in the context of local or systemic defects in host immune defences, is less well established. Specific mechanisms of bacterial resistance to host immunity might represent targets for therapeutic intervention. The clinical utility of such an approach for either prevention or treatment of bacterial infection, however, has not been determined.
PMCID: PMC2646333  PMID: 19014410
10.  MisR/MisS Two-Component Regulon in Neisseria meningitidis▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2007;76(2):704-716.
Two-component regulatory systems are involved in processes important for bacterial pathogenesis. Inactivation of the misR/misS system in Neisseria meningitidis results in the loss of phosphorylation of the lipooligosaccharide inner core and causes attenuation in a mouse model of meningococcal infection. One hundred seventeen (78 up-regulated and 39 down-regulated) potential regulatory targets of the MisR/MisS (MisR/S) system were identified by transcriptional profiling of the NMBmisR mutant and the parental wild-type meningococcal strain NMB. The regulatory effect was further confirmed in a subset of target genes by quantitative real-time PCR and β-galactosidase transcriptional fusion reporter assays. The MisR regulon includes genes encoding proteins necessary for protein folding in the bacterial cytoplasm and periplasm, transcriptional regulation, metabolism, iron assimilation, and type I protein transport. Mutation in the MisR/S system caused increased sensitivity to oxidative stress and also resulted in decreased susceptibility to complement-mediated killing by normal human serum. To identify the direct targets of MisR regulation, electrophoretic mobility shift assays were carried out using purified MisR-His6 protein. Among 22 genes examined, misR directly interacted with 14 promoter regions. Six promoters were further investigated by DNase I protection assays, and a MisR-binding consensus sequence was proposed. Thus, the direct regulatory targets of MisR and the minimal regulon of the meningococcal MisR/S two-component signal transduction system were characterized. These data indicate that the MisR/S system influences a wide range of biological functions in N. meningitidis either directly or via intermediate regulators.
PMCID: PMC2223465  PMID: 18056476
11.  Comparison of the RpoH-Dependent Regulon and General Stress Response in Neisseria gonorrhoeae 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(13):4769-4776.
In the gammaproteobacteria the RpoH regulon is often equated with the stress response, as the regulon contains many of the genes that encode what have been termed heat shock proteins that deal with the presence of damaged proteins. However, the betaproteobacteria primarily utilize the HrcA repressor protein to control genes involved in the stress response. We used genome-wide transcriptional profiling to compare the RpoH regulon and stress response of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a member of the betaproteobacteria. To identify the members of the RpoH regulon, a plasmid-borne copy of the rpoH gene was overexpressed during exponential-phase growth at 37°C. This resulted in increased expression of 12 genes, many of which encode proteins that are involved in the stress response in other species. The putative promoter regions of many of these up-regulated genes contain a consensus RpoH binding site similar to that of Escherichia coli. Thus, it appears that unlike other members of the betaproteobacteria, N. gonorrhoeae utilizes RpoH, and not an HrcA homolog, to regulate the stress response. In N. gonorrhoeae exposed to 42°C for 10 min, we observed a much broader transcriptional response involving 37 differentially expressed genes. Genes that are apparently not part of the RpoH regulon showed increased transcription during heat shock. A total of 13 genes were also down-regulated. From these results we concluded that although RpoH acts as the major regulator of protein homeostasis, N. gonorrhoeae has additional means of responding to temperature stress.
PMCID: PMC1483004  PMID: 16788186
12.  Ecf, an Alternative Sigma Factor from Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Controls Expression of msrAB, Which Encodes Methionine Sulfoxide Reductase 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(10):3463-3469.
A DNA microarray was used to identify genes transcribed in Neisseria gonorrhoeae using Ecf, an alternative sigma factor. No differences between the transcriptional profiles of strain FA1090 and a mutant where ecf had been inactivated could be detected when both were grown in vitro. We therefore constructed a gonococcal strain in which Ecf can be overexpressed. Some differentially expressed genes are clustered with ecf on the genome and appear to form a single transcriptional unit. Expression of the gene encoding MsrAB, which possesses methionine sulfoxide reductase activity, was also dependent on Ecf, suggesting that the regulon responds to oxidative damage. Western blotting confirmed that the increased level of MsrAB protein is dependent on the presence of Ecf.
PMCID: PMC1482861  PMID: 16672599
13.  Polymorphisms in Pilin Glycosylation Locus of Neisseria meningitidis Expressing Class II Pili 
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(6):3597-3604.
We have located a locus, pgl, in Neisseria meningitidis strain NMB required for the glycosylation of class II pili. Between five and eight open reading frames (ORFs) (pglF, pglB, pglC, pglB2, orf2, orf3, orf8, and avtA) were present in the pgl clusters of different meningococcal isolates. The Class I pilus-expressing strains Neisseria gonorrhoeae MS11 and N. meningitidis MC58 each contain a pgl cluster in which orf2 and orf3 have been deleted. Strain NMB and other meningococcal isolates which express class II type IV pili contained pgl clusters in which pglB had been replaced by pglB2 and an additional novel ORF, orf8, had been inserted between pglB2 and pglC. Insertional inactivation of the eight ORFs of the pgl cluster of strain NMB showed that pglF, pglB2, pglC, and pglD, but not orf2, orf3, orf8, and avtA, were necessary for pilin glycosylation. Pilin glycosylation was not essential for resistance to normal human serum, as pglF and pglD mutants retained wild-type levels of serum resistance. Although pglB2 and pglC mutants were significantly sensitive to normal human serum under the experimental conditions used, subsequent examination of the encapsulation phenotypes revealed that pglB2 and pglC mutants expressed almost 50% less capsule than wild-type NMB. A mutation in orf3, which did not affect pilin glycosylation, also resulted in a 10% reduction in capsule expression and a moderately serum sensitive phenotype. On the basis of these results we suggest that pilin glycosylation may proceed via a lipid-linked oligosaccharide intermediate and that blockages in this pathway may interfere with capsular transport or assembly.
PMCID: PMC98345  PMID: 11349019

Results 1-13 (13)