Recent serologic, immunoprotection, and pathogenesis studies identified the Lig proteins as key virulence determinants in interactions of leptospiral pathogens with the mammalian host. We examined the sequence variation and recombination patterns of ligA, ligB, and ligC among 10 pathogenic strains from five Leptospira species. All strains were found to have intact ligB genes and genetic drift accounting for most of the ligB genetic diversity observed. The ligA gene was found exclusively in L. interrogans and L. kirschneri strains, and was created from ligB by a two-step partial gene duplication process. The aminoterminal domain of LigB and the LigA paralog were essentially identical (98.5 ± 0.8% mean identity) in strains with both genes. Like ligB, ligC gene variation also followed phylogenetic patterns, suggesting an early gene duplication event. However, ligC is a pseudogene in several strains, suggesting that LigC is not essential for virulence. Two ligB genes and one ligC gene had mosaic compositions and evidence for recombination events between related Leptospira species was also found for some ligA genes. In conclusion, the results presented here indicate that Lig diversity has important ramifications for the selection of Lig polypeptides for use in diagnosis and as vaccine candidates. This sequence information will aid the identification of highly conserved regions within the Lig proteins and improve upon the performance characteristics of the Lig proteins in diagnostic assays and in subunit vaccine formulations with the potential to confer heterologous protection.
Leptospirosis; Lig; Pathogenesis; Molecular evolution; Sequence analysis
Pathogenic Leptospira spp. are the etiological agents of leptospirosis, an important disease of both humans and animals. In urban settings, L. interrogans serovars are the predominant cause of disease in humans. The purpose of this study was to characterize a novel Leptospira isolate recovered from an abandoned swimming pool. Molecular characterization through sequencing of the rpoB gene revealed 100% identity with L. interrogans and variable-number tandem-repeat (VNTR) analysis resulted in a banding pattern identical to L. interrogans serogroup Icterohaemorrhagiae, serovar Copenhageni or Icterohaemorrhagiae. The virulence of the strain was determined in a hamster model of lethal leptospirosis. The lethal dose 50% (LD50) was calculated to be two leptospires in female hamsters and a histopathological examination of infected animals found typical lesions associated with severe leptospirosis, including renal epithelium degeneration, hepatic karyomegaly, liver-plate disarray and lymphocyte infiltration. This highly virulent strain is now available for use in further studies, especially evaluation of vaccine candidates.
Leptospira; Leptospirosis; Virulent; VNTR; rpoB
Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) proteins are of great interest due to their ability to act as mediators of pathogenesis, serodiagnostic antigens, and immunogens. Purified recombinant LigA protein is the most promising subunit vaccine candidate against leptospirosis reported to date, however, as purified proteins are weak immunogens the use of a potent adjuvant is essential for the success of LigA as a subunit vaccine. In the present study, we compared xanthan pv. pruni (strain 106), aluminium hydroxide (alhydrogel), and CpG ODN as adjuvants in a LigA subunit vaccine preparation. Xanthan gum is a high molecular weight extracellular polysaccharide produced by fermentation of Xanthomonas spp., a plant-pathogenic bacterium genus. Preparations containing xanthan induced a strong antibody response comparable to that observed when alhydrogel was used. Upon challenge with a virulent strain of L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni, significant protection (Fisher test, P < 0.05) was observed in 100%, 100%, and 67% of hamsters immunized with rLigANI-xanthan, LigA-CpG-xanthan, and rLigANI-alhydrogel, respectively. Furthermore, xanthan did not cause cytotoxicity in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells in vitro. The use of xanthan as an adjuvant is a novel alternative for enhancing the immunogenicity of vaccines against leptospirosis and possibly against other pathogens.
Bauhinia variegata lectins (BVL-I and BVL-II) are single chain lectins isolated from the plant Bauhinia variegata. Single chain lectins undergo post-translational processing on its N-terminal and C-terminal regions, which determines their physiological targeting, carbohydrate binding activity and pattern of quaternary association. These two lectins are isoforms, BVL-I being highly glycosylated, and thus far, it has not been possible to determine their structures. The present study used prediction and validation algorithms to elucidate the likely structures of BVL-I and -II. The program Bhageerath-H was chosen from among three different structure prediction programs due to its better overall reliability. In order to predict the C-terminal region cleavage sites, other lectins known to have this modification were analysed and three rules were created: (1) the first amino acid of the excised peptide is small or hydrophobic; (2) the cleavage occurs after an acid, polar, or hydrophobic residue, but not after a basic one; and (3) the cleavage spot is located 5-8 residues after a conserved Leu amino acid. These rules predicted that BVL-I and –II would have fifteen C-terminal residues cleaved, and this was confirmed experimentally by Edman degradation sequencing of BVL-I. Furthermore, the C-terminal analyses predicted that only BVL-II underwent α-helical folding in this region, similar to that seen in SBA and DBL. Conversely, BVL-I and -II contained four conserved regions of a GS-I association, providing evidence of a previously undescribed X4+unusual oligomerisation between the truncated BVL-I and the intact BVL-II. This is the first report on the structural analysis of lectins from Bauhinia spp. and therefore is important for the characterisation C-terminal cleavage and patterns of quaternary association of single chain lectins.
Toward developing an effective vaccine capable of conferring heterologous protection, the putative lipoprotein LemA, which presents an M3 epitope similar to that of Listeria, was evaluated as a vaccine candidate in the hamster model of leptospirosis. LemA is conserved (>70% pairwise identity) among the pathogenic Leptospira spp., indicating its potential in stimulating a cross-protective immune response. Using different vaccination strategies, including prime-boost, DNA vaccine, and a subunit preparation, recombinant LemA conferred different levels of protection in hamsters. Significant protection against mortality was observed for the prime-boost and the DNA vaccine strategies, which showed 87.5% (P < 0.01) and 62.5% (P < 0.05) efficacy, respectively. Although the subunit vaccine preparation protected 50.0% of immunized hamsters, the level of protection was not significant. None of the hamsters in the control groups survived challenge with a virulent strain of Leptospira interrogans serogroup Icterohaemorrhagiae. Characterization of the immune response found that the strongest antibody response was stimulated by the subunit vaccine preparation, followed by the prime-boost strategy. The DNA vaccine failed to elicit an antibody response in immunized hamsters.
The aim of this work was to evaluate the utilization of analysis of the distribution of relaxation time (DRT) using a dynamic light back-scattering technique as alternative method for the determination of the concentration regimes in aqueous solutions of biopolymers (xanthan, clairana and tara gums) by an analysis of the overlap (c*) and aggregation (c**) concentrations. The diffusion coefficients were obtained over a range of concentrations for each biopolymer using two methods. The first method analysed the behaviour of the diffusion coefficient as a function of the concentration of the gum solution. This method is based on the analysis of the diffusion coefficient versus the concentration curve. Using the slope of the curves, it was possible to determine the c* and c** for xanthan and tara gum. However, it was not possible to determine the concentration regimes for clairana using this method. The second method was based on an analysis of the DRTs, which showed different numbers of relaxation modes. It was observed that the concentrations at which the number of modes changed corresponded to the c* and c**. Thus, the DRT technique provided an alternative method for the determination of the critical concentrations of biopolymers.
A major limitation in the clinical management and experimental research of leptospirosis is the poor performance of the available methods for the direct detection of leptospires. In this study, we compared real-time PCR (qPCR), targeting the lipL32 gene, with the immunofluorescent imprint method (IM) for the detection and quantification of leptospires in kidney samples from the rat and hamster experimental models of leptospirosis. Using a virulent strain of Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni, a chronic infection was established in the rat model, which were euthanized 28 days post-infection, while the hamster model simulated an acute infection and the hamsters were euthanized eight days after inoculation. Leptospires in the kidney samples were detected using culture isolation, qPCR and the IM, and quantified using qPCR and the IM. In both the acute and chronic infection models, the correlation between quantification by qPCR and the IM was found to be positive and statistically significant (P<0.05). Therefore, this study demonstrates that the IM is a viable alternative for not only the detection but also the quantification of leptospires, particularly when the use of qPCR is not feasible.
The aims of this study were to investigate the frequency of pulmonary hemorrhage (PH) in mice unable to produce functional B and T lymphocytes and to explore the effect of an inducible nitric oxide synthase gene (Inos) knockout (KO) on the frequency/severity of interstitial nephritis in vivo. We studied the outcome of infection by the virulent Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni strain Cop. The animals used were Inos KO mice, recombination activating gene 1 (Rag1) KO mice, CB17 severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice, and the respective wild-type (WT) C57BL/6 and BALB/c controls. The Inos KO and WT mice survived with no clinical symptoms of leptospirosis. The frequency and severity of nephritis was significantly lower in the Inos KO mice. All of the Rag1 KO and SCID animals died of acute leptospirosis, whereas all of the WT mice survived. PH was observed in 57 and 94% of Rag1 KO mice and in 83 and 100% of SCID mice, using inoculum doses of 107 and 106 leptospires, respectively. There was no evidence of PH in the WT controls. In conclusion, the loss of the Inos gene had a negligible effect on the outcome of leptospiral infection, although we observed a reduced susceptibility for interstitial nephritis in this group. Of note, the absence of functional B- and T-cell lymphocytes did not preclude the occurrence of PH. These data provide evidence that PH in leptospirosis may not be related only to autoimmune mechanisms.
The purpose of this study was to perform a 16S sequence-based quality control of two Leptospira strain collections. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was used to verify two Leptospira reference collections provided by the World Health Organization and maintained at a reference laboratory for leptospirosis in Brazil. Among the 89 serovars evaluated, four conflicting strains were identified in one of the collections. Although 16S rRNA gene sequencing cannot identify Leptospira beyond the species level, it is suitable for the identification of contamination and quality control of leptospiral reference collections. This study highlights the importance of the availability of high-quality 16S rRNA sequences in public databases. In addition, it emphasizes the need for periodical verifications and quality control of Leptospira reference collections.
In determining the efficacy of new vaccine candidates for leptospirosis, the primary end point is death and an important secondary end point is sterilizing immunity. However, evaluation of this end point is often hampered by the time-consuming demands and complexity of methods such as culture isolation (CI). In this study, we evaluated the use of an imprint (or touch preparation) method (IM) in detecting the presence of leptospires in tissues of hamsters infected with Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni. In a dissemination study, compared to CI, the IM led to equal or improved detection of leptospires in kidney, liver, lung and blood samples collected post-infection and overall concordance was good (κ=0.61). Furthermore, in an evaluation of hamsters immunized with a recombinant leptospiral protein-based vaccine candidate and subsequently challenged, the agreement between the CI and IM was very good (κ=0.84). These findings indicate that the IM is a rapid method for the direct observation of Leptospira spp. that can be readily applied to evaluating infection in experimental animals and determining sterilizing immunity when screening potential vaccine candidates.
Leptospirosis is one of the most widespread zoonoses in the world and with over 260 pathogenic serovars there is an urgent need for a molecular system of classification. The development of multilocus sequence typing (MLST) schemes for Leptospira spp. is addressing this issue. The aim of this study was to identify loci with potential to enhance Leptospira strain discrimination by sequencing-based methods.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We used bioinformatics to evaluate pre-existing loci with the potential to increase the discrimination of outbreak strains. Previously deposited sequence data were evaluated by phylogenetic analyses using either single or concatenated sequences. We identified and evaluated the applicability of the ligB, secY, rpoB and lipL41 loci, individually and in combination, to discriminate between 38 pathogenic Leptospira strains and to cluster them according to the species they belonged to. Pairwise identity among the loci ranged from 82.0–92.0%, while interspecies identity was 97.7–98.5%. Using the ligB-secY-rpoB-lipL41 superlocus it was possible to discriminate 34/38 strains, which belong to six pathogenic Leptospira species. In addition, the sequences were concatenated with the superloci from 16 sequence types from a previous MLST scheme employed to study the association of a leptospiral clone with an outbreak of human leptospirosis in Thailand. Their use enhanced the discriminative power of the existing scheme. The lipL41 and rpoB loci raised the resolution from 81.0–100%, but the enhanced scheme still remains limited to the L. interrogans and L. kirschneri species.
As the first aim of our study, the ligB-secY-rpoB-lipL41 superlocus demonstrated a satisfactory level of discrimination among the strains evaluated. Second, the inclusion of the rpoB and lipL41 loci to a MLST scheme provided high resolution for discrimination of strains within L. interrogans and L. kirschneri and might be useful in future epidemiological studies.
The family of leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (lig) genes comprises ligA, ligB and ligC. This study used PCR to demonstrate the presence of lig genes among serovars from a collection of leptospiral strains and clinical isolates. Whilst ligA and ligC appeared to be present in a limited number of pathogenic serovars, the ligB gene was distributed ubiquitously among all pathogenic strains. None of the lig genes were detected among intermediate or saprophytic Leptospira species. It was also shown that, similar to the previously characterized secY gene, a short specific PCR fragment of ligB could be used to correctly identify pathogenic Leptospira species. These findings demonstrate that ligB is widely present among pathogenic strains and may be useful for their reliable identification and classification.
A survey was conducted to identify reservoirs for urban leptospirosis in the city of Salvador, Brazil. Sampling protocols were performed in the vicinity of households of severe leptospirosis cases identified during active hospital-based surveillance. Among a total of 142 captured Rattus norvegicus (Norwegian brown rat), 80.3% had a positive culture isolate from urine or kidney specimens and 68.1% had a positive serum sample by microscopic agglutination test (MAT) titre of ≥1:100. Monoclonal antibody-based typing of isolates identified that the agent carried by rats was L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni, which was the same serovar isolated from patients during hospital-based surveillance. Leptospira spp. were not isolated from 8 captured Didelphis marsupialis (Opossum), while 5/7 had a positive MAT titre against a saprophytic serogroup. R. rattus were not captured during the survey. The study findings indicate that the brown rat is a major rodent reservoir for leptospirosis in this urban setting. Furthermore, the high carriage rates of L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni in captured rats suggest that there is a significant degree of environmental contamination with this agent in the household environment of high risk areas, which in turn is a cause of transmission during urban epidemics.
Leptospira; Leptospirosis; Rats; Poverty Areas
Subunit vaccines are a potential intervention strategy against leptospirosis, which is a major public health problem in developing countries and a veterinary disease in livestock and companion animals worldwide. Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) proteins are a family of surface-exposed determinants that have Ig-like repeat domains found in virulence factors such as intimin and invasin. We expressed fragments of the repeat domain regions of LigA and LigB from Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni. Immunization of Golden Syrian hamsters with Lig fragments in Freund’s adjuvant induced robust antibody responses against recombinant protein and native protein, as detected by ELISA and immunoblot, respectively. A single fragment, LigANI, which corresponds to the six carboxy-terminal Ig-like repeat domains of the LigA molecule, conferred immunoprotection against mortality (67-100%, P <0.05) in hamsters which received a lethal inoculum of L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni. However, immunization with this fragment did not confer sterilizing immunity. These findings indicate that the carboxy-terminal portion of LigA is an immunoprotective domain and may serve as a vaccine candidate for human and veterinary leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis; subunit vaccine; Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like protein; recombinant protein; immunity; antibodies; hamsters
Access to low-cost, effective diagnosis for leptospirosis is urgently needed in developing countries. The EIE-IgM-Leptospirose, a kit produced for public health laboratories in Brazil, was shown to have a sensitivity of 76% (77 of 102 patients) and 100% (102 of 102 patients) during acute and convalescent-phase leptospirosis respectively and a specificity of 93%–100% (total healthy and patient control subjects evaluated, 486). These findings indicate that the assay will be useful for diagnosis of this emerging infectious disease in Brazil and other developing countries.
Leptospirosis; IgM ELISA; diagnosis; epidemics; urban; serovar; Leptospira; Copenhageni; Brazil
Leptospirosis is a globally distributed zoonosis of major public health importance and is associated with severe disease manifestations such as acute renal failure and pulmonary haemorrhage syndrome. However, the extent to which the pathogenesis of leptospirosis mimics sepsis caused by Gram-negative bacteria remains unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate serum levels of nitric oxide (NO) in patients diagnosed with severe leptospirosis. Sera from 35 confirmed cases of severe leptospirosis and 13 healthy subjects were analysed. Patients with severe leptospirosis had significantly higher NO levels compared to healthy individuals (30.82 ± 10.90 μM versus 3.86 ± 1.34 μM, P<0.001), indicating that this immune mediator plays a role in the underlying systemic inflammatory response.
Leptospirosis; Nitric Oxide; Acute renal failure; Pulmonary haemorrhage
Four serologic assays for leptospirosis had sensitivities of 72 to 88% and specificities of 88 to 100% in the setting of highly endemic urban transmission, indicating that assays using enzyme-linked immunosorbency and rapid formats may be used as alternatives to the microscopic agglutination test for diagnosing urban leptospirosis. Testing a second sample will be required in cases with an initial negative result, since sensitivity was low (46 to 68%) during the first week of illness.