Leptospirosis is a global zoonosis affecting millions of people annually. Transcriptional changes in response to temperature were previously investigated using microarrays to identify genes potentially expressed upon host entry. Past studies found that various leptospiral outer membrane proteins are differentially expressed at different temperatures. However, our microarray studies highlighted a divergence between protein abundance and transcript levels for some proteins. Given the abundance of post-transcriptional expression control mechanisms, this finding highlighted the importance of global protein analysis systems.
To complement our previous transcription study, we evaluated differences in the proteins of the leptospiral outer membrane fraction in response to temperature upshift. Outer membrane protein-enriched fractions from Leptospira interrogans grown at 30°C or overnight upshift to 37°C were isolated and the relative abundance of each protein was determined by iTRAQ analysis coupled with two-dimensional liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry (2-DLC/MS-MS). We identified 1026 proteins with 99% confidence; 27 and 66 were present at elevated and reduced abundance respectively. Protein abundance changes were compared with transcriptional differences determined from the microarray studies. While there was some correlation between the microarray and iTRAQ data, a subset of genes that showed no differential expression by microarray was found to encode temperature-regulated proteins. This set of genes is of particular interest as it is likely that regulation of their expression occurs post-transcriptionally, providing an opportunity to develop hypotheses about the molecular dynamics of the outer membrane of Leptospira in response to changing environments.
This is the first study to compare transcriptional and translational responses to temperature shift in L. interrogans. The results thus provide an insight into the mechanisms used by L. interrogans to adapt to conditions encountered in the host and to cause disease. Our results suggest down-regulation of protein expression in response to temperature, and decreased expression of outer membrane proteins may facilitate minimal interaction with host immune mechanisms.
Leptospirosis, caused by Leptospira spp., is a disease of worldwide significance affecting millions of people annually. Bacteria of this species are spread by various carrier animals, including rodents and domestic livestock, which shed the leptospires via their urine into the environment. Humans become infected through direct contact with carrier animals or indirectly via contaminated water or soil. Temperature is a key trigger used by many bacteria to sense changes in environmental conditions, including entry from the environment into the host. This study was the first comprehensive research into changes occurring in the outer membrane of Leptospira in response to temperature and how these changes correlate with gene expression changes. An understanding of the regulation and function of these proteins is important as they may provide an adaptation and survival advantage for the microorganism which may enhance its ability to infect hosts and cause disease. Our data suggest regulation of proteins in the outer membrane which may possibly be a mechanism to minimise interactions with the host immune response.