Haemophilus influenzae is an important human commensal pathogen associated with significant levels of disease. High-throughput DNA sequencing was used to investigate differences in genome content within this species.
Genomic DNA sequence was obtained from 85 strains of H. influenzae and from other related species, selected based on geographical site of isolation, disease association and documented genotypic and phenotypic differences. When compared by Mauve alignment these indicated groupings of H. influenzae that were consistent with previously published analyses; capsule expressing strains fell into two distinct groups and those of serotype b (Hib) were found in two closely positioned lineages. For 18 Hib strains representing both lineages we found many discrete regions (up to 40% of the total genome) displaying sequence variation when compared to a common reference strain. Evidence that this naturally occurring pattern of inter-strain variation in H. influenzae can be mediated by transformation was obtained through sequencing DNA obtained from a pool of 200 independent transformants of a recipient (strain Rd) using donor DNA from a heterologous Hib strain (Eagan).
Much of the inter-strain variation in genome sequence in H. influenzae is likely the result of inter-strain exchanges of DNA, most plausibly through transformation.
Haemophilus influenzae; Genome sequence; Population structure; Transformation
Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae is a major cause of localized respiratory tract disease and initiates infection by colonizing the nasopharynx. Colonization requires adherence to host epithelial cells, which is mediated by surface proteins such as the Hap adhesin. In this study, we identified a relationship between Hap levels in the outer membrane and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) biosynthesis enzymes. We found that mutation of the rfaF, pgmB, lgtC, kfiC, orfE, rfbP, lsgB, or lsgD genes, which are involved in the synthesis of the LPS oligosaccharide core in H. influenzae strain Rd/HapS243A, resulted in loss of Hap in the bacterial outer membrane and a decrease in hap transcript levels. In contrast, the same mutations had no effect on outer membrane localization of H. influenzae P5 or IgA1 protease or levels of p5 or iga1 transcripts, suggesting a Hap-specific effect. Elimination of the HtrA periplasmic protease resulted in a return of Hap to the outer membrane and restoration of hap transcript levels. Consistently, in lgtC phase-off bacteria, Hap was absent from the outer membrane, and hap transcript levels were reduced. Hap localization and hap transcript levels were not related to LPS size but to the functions of the LPS biosynthesis enzymes themselves. We speculate that the lack of certain LPS biosynthesis enzymes causes Hap to mislocalize and accumulate in the periplasm, where it is degraded by HtrA. This degradation then leads to a decrease in hap transcript levels. Together, these data highlight a novel interplay between Hap and LPS biosynthesis that can influence H. influenzae interactions with the host.
Non-typeable (NT) or capsule-deficient, Haemophilus influenzae (Hi) is a common commensal of the upper respiratory tract of humans and can be pathogenic resulting in diseases such as otitis media, sinusitis and pneumonia. The lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of NTHi is a major virulence factor that displays substantial intra-strain and inter-strain variation of its oligosaccharide structures. To investigate the genetic basis of LPS variation we sequenced internal regions of each of seven genes required for the biosynthesis of either the inner or the outer core oligosaccharide structures. These sequences were obtained from 25 representative NTHi isolates from episodes of otitis media. We found abundant evidence of recombination among LPS genes of NTHi, a finding in marked contrast to previous analyses of biosynthetic genes for capsular polysaccharide, a well-documented virulence factor of Hi. We found mosaic sequences, linkage equilibrium between loci and a lack of congruence between gene trees. These high rates were not confined to LPS genes since evidence for similar amounts of recombination was also found in eight housekeeping genes in a subset of the same 25 isolates. These findings provide a population based foundation for a better understanding of the role of NTHi LPS as a virulence factor and its potential as a candidate vaccine.
LPS biosynthetic genes; Housekeeping genes; Recombination; Non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae; Bacterial population biology; Otitis media
The introduction of routine infant immunization with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) conjugate vaccines in the United Kingdom in 1992 led to a significant reduction in invasive disease due to this organism. Subsequently, between 1999 and 2003 there was an increase in the number of immunized children with Hib infection. We investigated whether the rise in cases was related to changes in anti-polyribosylribitol phosphate (PRP) antibody concentration or avidity. Using stored sera, we analyzed temporal changes in antibody levels among 3- to 5-year-old children immunized between 1991 and 2000. Anti-PRP antibody concentrations were higher in 3- to 5-year-olds who received infant immunization in 1991 than those in subsequent years. This difference may be related to changes in either the mode of administration of Hib conjugate vaccines or the rates of Hib nasopharyngeal carriage. This study emphasizes the factors affecting anti-PRP antibody concentration following immunization with conjugate vaccines and the importance of these in long-term protection from invasive disease.
Bacteria adapt to environmental changes through high-frequency switches in expression of specific phenotypes. Localized hypermutation mediated by simple sequence repeats is an important mechanism of such phase variation (PV) in Neisseria meningitidis. Loss or gain of nucleotides in a poly(C) tract located in the reading frame results in switches in expression of lgtG and determines whether a glucose or a phosphoethanolamine (PEtn) is added at a specific position in the inner core lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Monoclonal antibody (MAb) B5 is bactericidal for N. meningitidis strain 8047 when PEtn is present in the inner core LPS and lgtG is switched “off.” Escape from the bactericidal activity of this antibody was examined by subjecting strain 8047 to multiple cycles of growth in the presence of MAb B5 and human serum. Escape variants with alterations in the lgtG repeat tract rapidly accumulated in bacterial populations during selection with this antibody. Strain 8047 was outcompeted in this assay by the 8047 ΔmutS strain due to the elevated PV rate of this mismatch repair mutant and hence the greater proportion of preexisting phase variants of lgtG in the inoculum. This mutS mutant was also more virulent than strain 8047 during escape from passive protection by MAb B5 in an in vivo infant rat model of bacteremia. These results provide an example of how PV rates can modulate the occurrence and severity of infection and have important implications for understanding the evolution of bacterial fitness in species subject to environmental variations that occur during persistence within and transmission between hosts.
Macrophage Scavenger Receptor A (SR-A) is a major non-opsonic receptor for Neisseria meningitidis on mononuclear phagocytes in vitro, and the surface proteins NMB0278, NMB0667, and NMB1220 have been identified as ligands for SR-A. In this study we ascertain the in vivo role of SR-A in the recognition of N. meningitidis MC58 (serogroup B) in a murine model of meningococcal septicaemia. We infected wild-type and SR-A−/− animals intraperitoneally with N. meningitidis MC58 and monitored their health over a period of 50 hours. We also determined the levels of bacteraemia in the blood and spleen, and measured levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6). The health of SR-A−/− animals deteriorated more rapidly, and they showed a 33% reduction in survival compared to wild-type animals. SR-A−/− animals consistently exhibited higher levels of bacteraemia and increased levels of IL-6, compared to wild-type animals. Subsequently, we constructed a bacterial mutant (MC58-278-1220) lacking two of the SR-A ligands, NMB0278 and NMB1220. Mutation of NMB0667 proved to be lethal. When mice were infected with the mutant bacteria MC58-278-1220, no significant differences could be observed in the health, survival, bacteraemia, and cytokine production between wild-type and SR-A−/− animals. Overall, mutant bacteria appeared to cause less severe symptoms of septicaemia, and a competitive index assay showed that higher levels of wild-type bacteria were recovered when animals were infected with a 1∶1 ratio of wild-type MC58 and mutant MC58-278-1220 bacteria. These data represent the first report of the protective role of SR-A, a macrophage-restricted, non-opsonic receptor, in meningococcal septicaemia in vivo, and the importance of the recognition of bacterial protein ligands, rather than lipopolysaccharide.
Macrophages are innate immune cells that provide a first defence against infection. Several receptors on the surface of macrophages mediate recognition of invading pathogens, and one of these is the Macrophage Scavenger Receptor A (SR-A). SR-A recognises Neisseria meningitidis, a bacterium that causes meningitis and septic shock, via proteins on the surface of the bacterium. In this study we investigated the interaction of SR-A with N. meningitidis in a mouse model for septic shock, by infecting mice with N. meningitidis and comparing a mouse strain expressing SR-A with one that does not. The health of mice not expressing SR-A deteriorated more rapidly and fewer animals survived compared to those expressing SR-A. Mice lacking SR-A had higher numbers of bacteria in their blood and also produced more cytokines that can cause septic shock. We also infected mice with bacteria that did not express two of the proteins recognised by SR-A. In this case, no differences in survival, levels of bacteria, or cytokines were detected between animals that expressed SR-A and those that did not. Therefore, we show that the macrophage receptor SR-A is protective in the development of septic shock induced by N. meningitidis.
Otitis media caused by nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) is a common and recurrent bacterial infection of childhood. The structural variability and diversity of H. influenzae lipopolysaccharide (LPS) glycoforms are known to play a significant role in the commensal and disease-causing behavior of this pathogen. In this study, we determined LPS glycoform populations from NTHi strain 1003 during the course of experimental otitis media in the chinchilla model of infection by mass spectrometric techniques. Building on an established structural model of the major LPS glycoforms expressed by this NTHi strain in vitro (M. Månsson, W. Hood, J. Li, J. C. Richards, E. R. Moxon, and E. K. Schweda, Eur. J. Biochem. 269:808-818, 2002), minor isomeric glycoform populations were determined by liquid chromatography multiple-step tandem electrospray mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MSn). Using capillary electrophoresis ESI-MS (CE-ESI-MS), we determined glycoform profiles for bacteria from direct middle ear fluid (MEF) samples. The LPS glycan profiles were essentially the same when the MEF samples of 7 of 10 animals were passaged on solid medium (chocolate agar). LC-ESI-MSn provided a sensitive method for determining the isomeric distribution of LPS glycoforms in MEF and passaged specimens. To investigate changes in LPS glycoform distribution during the course of infection, MEF samples were analyzed at 2, 5, and 9 days postinfection by CE-ESI-MS following minimal passage on chocolate agar. As previously observed, sialic acid-containing glycoforms were detected during the early stages of infection, but a trend toward more-truncated and less-complex LPS glycoforms that lacked sialic acid was found as disease progressed.
The genes of the lic1 operon (lic1A to lic1D) are responsible for incorporation of phosphocholine (PCho) into the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of Haemophilus influenzae. PCho plays a multifaceted role in the commensal and pathogenic lifestyles of a range of mucosal pathogens, including H. influenzae. Structural studies of the LPS of nontypeable H. influenzae (NTHI) have revealed that PCho can be linked to a hexose on any one of the oligosaccharide chain extensions from the conserved inner core triheptosyl backbone. In a collection of NTHI strains we found several strains in which there were two distinct but variant lic1D DNA sequences, genes predicted to encode the transferase responsible for directing the addition of PCho to LPS. The same isolates were also found to express concomitantly two PCho residues at distinct positions in their LPS. In one such NTHI isolate, isolate 1158, structural analysis of LPS from lic1 mutants confirmed that each of the two copies of lic1D directs the addition of PCho to a distinct location on the LPS. One position for PCho addition is a novel heptose, which is part of the oligosaccharide extension from the proximal heptose of the LPS inner core. Modification of the LPS by addition of two PCho residues resulted in increased binding of C-reactive protein and had consequential effects on the resistance of the organism to the killing effects of normal human serum compared to the effects of glycoforms containing one or no PCho. When bound, C-reactive protein leads to complement-mediated killing, indicating the potential biological significance of multiple PCho residues.
Simple sequence repeats located within reading frames mediate phase-variable ON/OFF switches in gene expression by generating frameshifts. Multiple translation initiation codons in different reading frames are found upstream of most Haemophilus influenzae tetranucleotide repeat tracts, raising the possibility of multiple active reading frames and more than two levels of gene expression for these loci. Phase variation between three levels of gene expression (strong, weak, and none) was observed when lic2A was fused to a lacZ reporter gene. The lic2A 5′ CAAT repeat tract is preceded by four 5′ ATG codons (x, y, z1, and z2) in two reading frames. Each of these initiation codons was inactivated by site-directed mutagenesis. Strong expression from frame 1 was associated with x but not y. Weak expression from frame 2 was mainly dependent on the z2 codon, and there was no expression from frame 3. Using monoclonal antibodies specific for a digalactoside epitope of lipopolysaccharide whose synthesis requires Lic2A, two levels (strong and undetectable) of antibody reactivity were detected, suggesting that weak expression of lic2A is not discernible at the phenotypic level. Inactivation of the x initiation codon resulted in loss of strong expression of the digalactoside epitope and elevated killing by human serum. The failure to detect more than two phenotypes for lic2A, despite clear evidence of weak expression from the z1/z2 initiation codons, leaves open the question of whether or not multiple initiation codons are associated with more complex patterns of phenotypic variation rather than classical phase-variable switching between two phenotypes.
Nontypeable (NT) Haemophilus influenzae is an important cause of otitis media in children. We have shown previously that NT H. influenzae mutants defective in their ability to sialylate lipopolysaccharide (LPS), called siaB mutants, show attenuated virulence in a chinchilla model of experimental otitis media (EOM). We show that complement is a key arm of host innate immunity against NT H. influenzae-induced EOM. Depleting complement in chinchillas by use of cobra venom factor (CoVF) rendered two otherwise avirulent siaB mutants fully virulent and able to cause EOM with severity similar to that of wild-type strains. Clearance of infection caused by siaB mutants in CoVF-treated animals coincided with reappearance of C3. Wild-type strains were more resistant to direct complement-mediated killing than their siaB mutants. The serum-resistant strain bound less C3 and C4 than the serum-sensitive strain. Neither NT H. influenzae strain tested bound factor H (alternative complement pathway regulator). Selective activation of the alternative pathway resulted in more C3 binding to siaB mutants. LPS sialylation had a more profound impact on the amount of alternative-pathway-mediated C3 binding (∼5-fold decrease in fluorescence) when LPS was the main C3 target, as occurred on the more serum-resistant strain. In contrast, only an ∼1.5-fold decrease in fluorescence intensity of C3 binding was seen with the serum-sensitive strain, where surface proteins predominantly bound C3. Differences in binding sites for C3 and C4 may account for variations in serum resistance between NT H. influenzae strains, which in turn may impact their virulence. These data demonstrate a central role for complement in innate immune defenses against NT H. influenzae infections and specifically EOM.
Macrophages (Mφ) may play an important role in the pathogenesis of invasive meningococcal infection. Previously, we have shown that the class A Mφ scavenger receptor (SR-A) is a major nonopsonic receptor for Neisseria meningitidis on Mφ. SR-A contributes to host defense by binding proinflammatory polyanionic ligands such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and by the uptake and killing of live organisms. SR-A-deficient mouse Mφ display a substantial reduction in the number of meningococci ingested compared to wild-type Mφ, and SR-A is required for meningococcal phagocytosis but not for the release of tumor necrosis factor alpha. Although soluble lipid A and lipidIVA are reported as ligands for SR-A, we demonstrated that LPS and LPS expression were not essential for the uptake of whole meningococci. In the present study, we set out to discover protein ligand(s) for SR-A in N. meningitidis lysates and outer membrane vesicles. Using various microbial mutant strains, we determined that molecules comprising the membrane capsule and pili, as well as the abundant surface Opa proteins were not essential for SR-A recognition. We developed a binding assay to detect SR-A ligands and identified three candidate proteins expressed on intact organisms, namely, NMB1220, NMB0278, and NMB0667. Soluble forms of these ligands were shown to block the binding of meningococci to CHO cells stably transfected with SR-A. Furthermore, NMB1220 was endocytosed by SR-A on Mφ and prevented internalization of soluble acetylated low-density lipoprotein. Thus, we have identified novel, unmodified protein ligands for SR-A that are able to inhibit meningococcal interactions with macrophages in vitro.
Phase variable restriction-modification (R-M) systems are widespread in Eubacteria. Haemophilus influenzae encodes a phase variable homolog of Type III R-M systems. Sequence analysis of this system in 22 non-typeable H.influenzae isolates revealed a hypervariable region in the central portion of the mod gene whereas the res gene was conserved. Maximum likelihood (ML) analysis indicated that most sites outside this hypervariable region experienced strong negative selection but evidence of positive selection for a few sites in adjacent regions. A phylogenetic analysis of 61 Type III mod genes revealed clustering of these H.influenzae mod alleles with mod genes from pathogenic Neisseriae and, based on sequence analysis, horizontal transfer of the mod–res complex between these species. Neisserial mod alleles also contained a hypervariable region and all mod alleles exhibited variability in the repeat tract. We propose that this hypervariable region encodes the target recognition domain (TRD) of the Mod protein and that variability results in alterations to the recognition sequence of this R-M system. We argue that the high allelic diversity and phase variable nature of this R-M system have arisen due to selective pressures exerted by diversity in bacteriophage populations but also have implications for other fitness attributes of these bacterial species.
Digalactoside (galα-1-4 galβ) structures of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of Haemophilus influenzae are implicated in virulence. A confounding factor is that tetranucleotide repeats within the lic2A, lgtC, and lex2 genes mediate phase-variable expression of the digalactosides. By deleting these repeats, we constructed recombinant strains of RM153 constitutively expressing either one or two LPS digalactosides. Expression of two digalactosides, rather than one, was associated with increased virulence of H. influenzae in vivo.
The phase-variable locus lex2 is required for expression of a Haemophilus influenzae lipopolysaccharide (LPS) epitope of previously unknown structure. This epitope, which is reactive with monoclonal antibody (MAb) 5G8, has been associated with virulence of type b strains. When strain RM118 (from the same source as strain Rd), in which the lex2 locus and MAb 5G8 reactivity are absent, was transformed with lex2 DNA, transformants that were reactive with MAb 5G8 were obtained. Surprisingly, the 5G8 reactivity of these transformants was phase variable, although the lex2 locus lacked tetrameric repeats and was constitutively expressed. This phase variation was shown to be the result of phase-variable expression of phosphorylcholine (PCho) such that MAb 5G8 reacted only in the absence of PCho. Structural analysis showed that, compared to RM118, the lex2 transformant had acquired a tetrasaccharide, Gal-α1,4-Gal-β1,4-Glc-β1,4-Glc-β1,4, linked to the proximal heptose (HepI). A terminal GalNAc was detected in a minority of glycoforms. LPS derived from a mutant of RM7004, a virulent type b strain which naturally expresses lex2 and has LPS containing the same tetrasaccharide linked to HepI as the sole oligosaccharide extension from the inner core, confirmed that GalNAc is not a part of the MAb 5G8-reactive epitope. Thus, MAb 5G8 specifically binds to the structure Gal-α1,4-Gal-β1,4-Glc-β1,4-Glc-β attached via a 1,4 linkage to HepI of H. influenzae LPS, and we show that the ability to synthesize this novel tetrasaccharide was associated with enhanced bacterial resistance to complement-mediated killing.
A feature of Haemophilus influenzae genomes is the presence of several loci containing tracts of six or more identical tetranucleotide repeat units. These repeat tracts are unstable and mediate high frequency, reversible alterations in the expression of surface antigens. This process, termed phase variation (PV), enables H.influenzae to rapidly adapt to fluctuations in the host environment. Perturbation of lagging strand DNA synthesis is known to destabilize simple sequence repeats in yeast and Escherichia coli. By using a chromosomally located reporter construct, we demonstrated that the mutation of an H.influenzae rnhA (encoding RnaseHI) homologue increases the mutation rates of tetranucleotide repeats ∼3-fold. Additionally, deletion of the Klenow domain of DNA polymerase I (PolI) resulted in a ∼35-fold increase in tetranucleotide repeat-mediated PV rates. Deletion of the PolI 5′>3′ exonuclease domain appears to be lethal. The phenotypes of these mutants suggest that delayed or mutagenic Okazaki fragment processing destabilizes H.influenzae tetranucleotide repeat tracts.
It is generally thought that mucosal bacterial pathogens of the genera Haemophilus, Neisseria, and Moraxella elaborate lipopolysaccharide (LPS) that is fundamentally different from that of enteric organisms that express O-specific polysaccharide side chains. Haemophilus influenzae elaborates short-chain LPS that has a role in the pathogenesis of H. influenzae infections. We show that the synthesis of LPS in this organism can no longer be as clearly distinguished from that in other gram-negative bacteria that express an O antigen. We provide evidence that a region of the H. influenzae genome, the hmg locus, is involved in the synthesis of glycoforms in which tetrasaccharide units are added en bloc, not stepwise, to the normal core glycoforms, similar to the biosynthesis of an O-antigen.
We previously described a gene, lpt3, required for the addition of phosphoethanolamine (PEtn) at the 3 position on the β-chain heptose (HepII) of the inner-core Neisseria meningitidis lipopolysaccharide (LPS), but it has long been recognized that the inner-core LPS of some strains possesses PEtn at the 6 position (PEtn-6) on HepII. We have now identified a gene, lpt6 (NMA0408), that is required for the addition of PEtn-6 on HepII. The lpt6 gene is located in a region previously identified as Lgt-3 and is associated with other LPS biosynthetic genes. We screened 113 strains, representing all serogroups and including disease and carriage strains, for the lpt3 and lpt6 genes and showed that 36% contained both genes, while 50% possessed lpt3 only and 12% possessed lpt6 only. The translated amino acid sequence of lpt6 has a homologue (72.5% similarity) in a product of the Haemophilus influenzae Rd genome sequence. Previous structural studies have shown that all H. influenzae strains investigated have PEtn-6 on HepII. Consistent with this, we found that, among 70 strains representing all capsular serotypes and nonencapsulated H. influenzae strains, the lpt6 homologue was invariably present. Structural analysis of LPS from H. influenzae and N. meningitidis strains where lpt6 had been insertionally inactivated revealed that PEtn-6 on HepII could not be detected. The translated amino acid sequences from the N. meningitidis and H. influenzae lpt6 genes have conserved residues across their lengths and are part of a family of proven or putative PEtn transferases present in a wide range of gram-negative bacteria.
DNA adenine methyltransferase (Dam) activity is absent in many, but not all, disease isolates of Neisseria meningitidis, as a consequence of the insertion of a restriction endonuclease-encoding gene, the 'dam replacing gene' (drg) at the dam locus. Here, we report the results of a survey to assess the prevalence of drg in a globally representative panel of disease-associated meningococci.
Of the known meningococcal hyper-invasive lineages investigated, drg was absent in all representatives of the ST-8 and ST-11 clonal complexes tested, but uniformly present in the representatives of the other hyper-invasive lineages present in the isolate collection (the ST-1, ST-4, ST-5, ST-32 and ST-41/44 clonal complexes). The patterns of sequence diversity observed in drg were consistent with acquisition of this gene from a source organism with a different G+C content, at some time prior to the emergence of present-day meningococcal clonal complexes, followed by spread through the meningococcal population by horizontal genetic exchange. During this spread a number of alleles have arisen by mutation and intragenic recombination.
These findings are consistent with the idea that possession of the drg gene may contribute to the divergence observed among meningococcal clonal complexes, but does not have a direct mechanistic involvement in virulence.
High-frequency, reversible switches in expression of surface antigens, referred to as phase variation (PV), are characteristic of Haemophilus influenzae. PV enables this bacterial species, an obligate commensal and pathogen of the human upper respiratory tract, to adapt to changes in the host environment. Phase-variable hemagglutinating pili are expressed by many H. influenzae isolates. PV involves alterations in the number of 5′ TA repeats located between the −10 and −35 promoter elements of the overlapping, divergently orientated promoters of hifA and hifBCDE, whose products mediate biosynthesis and assembly of pili. Dinucleotide repeat tracts are destabilized by mismatch repair (MMR) mutations in Escherichia coli. The influence of mutations in MMR genes of H. influenzae strain Rd on dinucleotide repeat-mediated PV rates was investigated by using reporter constructs containing 20 5′ AT repeats. Mutations in mutS, mutL, and mutH elevated rates approximately 30-fold, while rates in dam and uvrD mutants were increased 14- and 3-fold, respectively. PV rates of constructs containing 10 to 12 5′ AT repeats were significantly elevated in mutS mutants of H. influenzae strains Rd and Eagan. An intact hif locus was found in 14 and 12% of representative nontypeable H. influenzae isolates associated with either otitis media or carriage, respectively. Nine or more tandem 5′ TA repeats were present in the promoter region. Surprisingly, inactivation of mutS in two serotype b H. influenzae strains did not alter pilin PV rates. Thus, although functionally analogous to the E. coli MMR pathway and active on dinucleotide repeat tracts, defects in H. influenzae MMR do not affect 5′ TA-mediated pilin PV.
A panel of six murine monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) recognizing inner core lipopolysaccharide (LPS) epitopes of Neisseria meningitidis was prepared and characterized in order to determine the diversity of inner core LPS glycoforms among disease and carrier isolates. Two of these MAbs, L2-16 (immunoglobulin G2b [IgG2b]) and LPT3-1 (IgG2a), together with a third, previously described MAb, L3B5 (IgG3), showed reactivity, either individually or in combination, with all except 3 of 143 disease and carriage isolates (125 of 126 strains from blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or skin biopsy samples and 15 of 17 from nasopharyngeal cultures). MAbs L3B5, L2-16, and LPT3-1 were further characterized in an indirect immunofluorescence assay. All three MAbs bound to the bacterial cell surface, findings that correlated strongly with whole-cell enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunodot blots. However, in contrast to our findings with L3B5, cell surface binding of L2-16 or LPT 3-1 did not correlate with functional activity as determined by bactericidal or infant rat passive protection assays against wild-type N. meningitidis strains. These findings are provocative with respect to the requirements for protective activity of antibodies and the development of inner core LPS vaccines against invasive meningococcal disease.
A gene, NMB1638, with homology to the recently characterized gene encoding a phosphoethanolamine transferase, lpt-3, has been identified from the Neisseria meningitidis genome sequence and was found to be present in all meningococcal strains examined. Homology comparison with other database sequences would suggest that NMB1638 and lpt-3 represent genes coding for members of a family of proteins of related function identified in a wide range of gram-negative species of bacteria. When grown and isolated under appropriate conditions, N. meningitidis elaborated lipopolysaccharide (LPS) containing a lipid A that was characteristically phosphorylated with multiple phosphate and phosphoethanolamine residues. In all meningococcal strains examined, each lipid A species contained the basal diphosphorylated species, wherein a phosphate group is attached to each glucosamine residue. Also elaborated within the population of LPS molecules are a variety of “phosphoforms” that contain either an additional phosphate residue, an additional phosphoethanolamine residue, additional phosphate and phosphoethanolamine residues, or an additional phosphate and two phosphoethanolamine residues in the lipid A. Mass spectroscopic analyses of LPS from three strains in which NMB1638 had been inactivated by a specific mutation indicated that there were no phosphoethanolamine residues included in the lipid A region of the LPS and that there was no further phosphorylation of lipid A beyond one additional phosphate species. We propose that NMB1638 encodes a phosphoethanolamine transferase specific for lipid A and propose naming the gene “lptA,” for “LPS phosphoethenolamine transferase for lipid A.”
A recently described flow cytometric opsonophagocytic assay (OPA) was adapted to quantify the functional activity of serum antibodies specifically directed against serogroup B inner core lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of Neisseria meningitidis. The percentage of human peripheral polymorphonuclear leukocytes and monocytes (PMNms) ingesting fluorescently labeled, ethanol-fixed N. meningitidis organisms (phagocytic activity) in the presence of human sera was measured to reflect the serum opsonic activity against the bacterium. The contribution to opsonophagocytic activity of antibodies to inner core LPS was estimated by comparing the opsonic activities of adult and infant sera before and after adsorbing anti-LPS antibodies from the sera using purified LPS extracted from an LPS mutant (galE) of N. meningitidis strain MC58 (B:15:P1.7,16:L3). The specificity of the assay was further investigated using monoclonal antibody (MAb) B5, which binds to an inner core LPS epitope of N. meningitidis. A dose-dependent decrease in phagocytic activity was observed when MAb B5 was incubated with LPS from an inner core LPS (galE) mutant. Similarly, the number of PMNms ingesting fluorescently labeled polystyrene beads coated with inner core (galE) LPS decreased in a dose-dependent fashion when MAb B5 was incubated with various concentrations of the homologous inner core LPS. Strong correlations were found between the concentration of serum antibodies to inner core LPS (galE) versus the phagocytic activity using healthy adult sera (r2 = 0.89). There was a correlation between phagocytic ingestion and initiation of intracellular oxidative burst (r2 = 0.99) using polystyrene beads coated with inner core LPS and opsonized with the same sera using the oxidative burst indicator system dihydrorhodamine123/rhodamine 123. OPA results were also found to correlate closely with the results of the serum bactericidal assay using MAb B5 against the N. meningitidis MC58 galE mutant in the presence of human complement (r2 = 0.994, P = 0.003, two-tailed test). These studies demonstrate that functional antibodies are produced in humans against meningococcal inner core LPS and that the OPA is a useful approach to study the opsonic activity of antibodies to inner core LPS in health and disease.
We investigated the conservation and antibody accessibility of inner core epitopes of Neisseria meningitidis lipopolysaccharide (LPS) because of their potential as vaccine candidates. An immunoglobulin G3 murine monoclonal antibody (MAb), designated MAb B5, was obtained by immunizing mice with a galE mutant of N. meningitidis H44/76 (B.15.P1.7,16 immunotype L3). We have shown that MAb B5 can bind to the core LPS of wild-type encapsulated MC58 (B.15.P1.7,16 immunotype L3) organisms in vitro and ex vivo. An inner core structure recognized by MAb B5 is conserved and accessible in 26 of 34 (76%) of group B and 78 of 112 (70%) of groups A, C, W, X, Y, and Z strains. N. meningitidis strains which possess this epitope are immunotypes in which phosphoethanolamine (PEtn) is linked to the 3-position of the β-chain heptose (HepII) of the inner core. In contrast, N. meningitidis strains lacking reactivity with MAb B5 have an alternative core structure in which PEtn is linked to an exocyclic position (i.e., position 6 or 7) of HepII (immunotypes L2, L4, and L6) or is absent (immunotype L5). We conclude that MAb B5 defines one or more of the major inner core glycoforms of N. meningitidis LPS. These findings support the possibility that immunogens capable of eliciting functional antibodies specific to inner core structures could be the basis of a vaccine against invasive infections caused by N. meningitidis.
Intraperitoneal injections of 250 mg of ampicillin per kg every 6 h for 30 h sterilized the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of infant rats infected with either a β-lactamase-containing strain of Haemophilus influenzae type b or a strain lacking the enzyme. However, a single injection of 100 mg/kg sterilized the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of significantly fewer of those rats infected with the β-lactamase-producing strain. The results suggest that resistance of β-lactamase-containing strains of H. influenzae in vivo may be inoculum dependent, as demonstrated previously in vitro. The infant rat model appears suited for the quantitative delineation of the effect of β-lactamase on the treatment of H. influenzae bacteremia and meningitis with β-lactamase antibiotics.