Approximately 7% of survivors from meningococcal meningitis (MM) suffer from neurological sequelae due to brain damage in the course of meningitis. The present study focuses on the role of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in a novel mouse model of MM-induced brain damage.
The model is based on intracisternal infection of BALB/c mice with a serogroup C Neisseria meningitidis strain. Mice were infected with meningococci and randomised for treatment with the MMP inhibitor batimastat (BB-94) or vehicle. Animal survival, brain injury and host-response biomarkers were assessed 48 h after meningococcal challenge.
Mice that received BB-94 presented significantly diminished MMP-9 levels (p < 0.01), intracerebral bleeding (p < 0.01), and blood-brain barrier (BBB) breakdown (p < 0.05) in comparison with untreated animals. In mice suffering from MM, the amount of MMP-9 measured by zymography significantly correlated with both intracerebral haemorrhage (p < 0.01) and BBB disruption (p < 0.05).
MMPs significantly contribute to brain damage associated with experimental MM. Inhibition of MMPs reduces intracranial complications in mice suffering from MM, representing a potential adjuvant strategy in MM post-infection sequelae.
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Neisseria meningitidis; Meningococcal meningitis; Mouse model; Brain damage; Matrix metalloproteinases; Metalloproteinase inhibitors
The pathogenesis of bacteraemia after challenge with one million pneumococci of three isogenic variants was investigated. Sequential analyses of blood samples indicated that most episodes of bacteraemia were monoclonal events providing compelling evidence for a single bacterial cell bottleneck at the origin of invasive disease. With respect to host determinants, results identified novel properties of splenic macrophages and a role for neutrophils in early clearance of pneumococci. Concerning microbial factors, whole genome sequencing provided genetic evidence for the clonal origin of the bacteraemia and identified SNPs in distinct sub-units of F0/F1 ATPase in the majority of the ex vivo isolates. When compared to parental organisms of the inoculum, ex-vivo pneumococci with mutant alleles of the F0/F1 ATPase had acquired the capacity to grow at low pH at the cost of the capacity to grow at high pH. Although founded by a single cell, the genotypes of pneumococci in septicaemic mice indicate strong selective pressure for fitness, emphasising the within-host complexity of the pathogenesis of invasive disease.
Decades of research on bacterial sepsis have been devoted to analysing the steps that lead from a local event, either carriage or a localised infection, to systemic disease. Our work analyses in depth the events determining systemic infection by one of the main human pathogens, Streptococcus pneumoniae. Consistent with similar findings on the pathogenesis of bacteraemia due to other commensal pathogens, our results show that after an intravenous inoculum of a million pneumococci, the resulting septicaemia is often founded by a single bacterial cell. Investigation into the nature of this monoclonal infection identified strong within-host selective pressure for metabolic fitness during outgrowth of the bacterial population.
Pneumococcal meningitis (PM) is a life-threatening disease with a high case-fatality rate and elevated risk for serious neurological sequelae. In this study, we investigated the contribution of three major virulence factors of Streptococcus pneumoniae, the capsule, pneumococcal surface protein A (PspA) and C (PspC), to the pathogenesis of experimental PM.
Mice were challenged by the intracranial route with the serotype 4 TIGR4 strain (wt) and three isogenic mutants devoid of PspA, PspC, and the capsule. Survival, bacterial counts, and brain histology were carried out. To study the interaction between S. pneumoniae mutants and microglia, phagocytosis and survival experiments were performed using the BV2 mouse microglial cell line.
Virulence of the PspC mutant was comparable to that of TIGR4. In contrast, survival of animals challenged with the PspA mutant was significantly increased compared with the wt, and the mutant was also impaired at replicating in the brain and blood of infected mice. Brain histology indicated that all strains, except for the unencapsulated mutant, caused PM. Analysis of inflammation and damage in the brain of mice infected with TIGR4 or its unencapsulated mutant demonstrated that the rough strain was unable to induce inflammation and neuronal injury, even at high challenge doses. Results with BV2 cells showed no differences in phagocytic uptake between wt and mutants. In survival assays, however, the PspA mutant showed significantly reduced survival in microglia compared with the wt.
PspA contributed to PM pathogenesis possibly by interacting with microglia at early infection stages, while PspC had limited importance in the disease. The rough mutant did not cause brain inflammation, neuronal damage or mouse death, strengthening the key role of the capsule in PM.
Experimental pneumococcal meningitis; Microglia; PspA; PspC; Capsule
The pneumococcal chromosome encodes about 140 transporters, many of which are predicted to be involved in efflux. In order to critically evaluate pneumococcal efflux, a series of transporter mutants were constructed, and their phenotypes were assayed by disk diffusion, microdilution drug susceptibility testing (MIC testing), growth of cultures at sub-MIC concentrations, and phenotype microarray analysis. Mutants with mutations in seven ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters, three multiantimicrobial extrusion (MATE) family efflux pumps, and one major facilitator superfamily (MFS) transporter were obtained in Streptococcus pneumoniae strain DP1004. The susceptibility of these 11 mutants to over 250 different substances was compared to that of the parent strain. Of the tested transporters, only the ABC transporter PatAB (SP2073-5) presented a clear multidrug resistance (MDR) profile, as the mutant showed significantly increased susceptibility to ethidium bromide, acriflavine, and berberine. Among the other transporters analyzed, the mutants devoid of the MATE efflux pump SP2065 exhibited reduced susceptibility to novobiocin, and those with mutations of the MATE family DinF transport system (SP1939) exhibited increased susceptibility to moxifloxacin, ciprofloxacin, and levofloxacin. This change in quinolone MIC was found to be independent from the competence-mediated effect of quinolones on the cinA-recA-dinF operon. Furthermore, the dinF mutant, in contrast to the parental strain, allowed selection for quinolone-resistant mutants when exposed to moxifloxacin. These data confirm the clear MDR profile of the PatAB ABC transporter and suggest for the MATE DinF a phenotype associated with quinolone susceptibility, particularly for moxifloxacin.
Sialic acid (N-acetylneuraminic acid; NeuNAc) is one of the most important carbohydrates for Streptococcus pneumoniae due of its role as a carbon and energy source, receptor for adhesion and invasion and molecular signal for promotion of biofilm formation, nasopharyngeal carriage and invasion of the lung.
In this work, NeuNAc and its metabolic derivative N-acetyl mannosamine (ManNAc) were used to analyze regulatory mechanisms of the neuraminidase locus expression. Genomic and metabolic comparison to Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus oralis, Streptococcus gordonii and Streptococcus sanguinis elucidates the metabolic association of the two amino sugars to different parts of the locus coding for the two main pneumococcal neuraminidases and confirms the substrate specificity of the respective ABC transporters. Quantitative gene expression analysis shows repression of the locus by glucose and induction of all predicted transcriptional units by ManNAc and NeuNAc, each inducing with higher efficiency the operon encoding for the transporter with higher specificity for the respective amino sugar. Cytofluorimetric analysis demonstrated enhanced surface exposure of NanA on pneumococci grown in NeuNAc and ManNAc and an activity assay allowed to quantify approximately twelve times as much neuraminidase activity on induced cells as opposed to glucose grown cells.
The present data increase the understanding of metabolic regulation of the nanAB locus and indicate that experiments aimed at the elucidation of the relevance of neuraminidases in pneumococcal virulence should possibly not be carried out on bacteria grown in glucose containing media.
Sialic acid; Metabolic regulation; Carbon catabolite repression
There is considerable interest in pneumococcal protein antigens capable of inducing serotype-independent immunoprotection and of improving, thereby, existing vaccines. We report here on the immunogenic properties of a novel surface antigen encoded by ORF spr1875 in the R6 strain genome. An antigenic fragment encoded by spr1875, designated R4, was identified using a Streptococcus pneumoniae phage displayed genomic library after selection with a human convalescent serum. Immunofluorescence analysis with anti-R4 antisera showed that Spr1875 was expressed on the surface of strains belonging to different serotypes. Moreover, the gene was present with little sequence variability in 27 different pneumococcal strains isolated worldwide. A mutant lacking Spr1875 was considerably less virulent than the wild type D39 strain in an intravenous mouse model of infection. Moreover, immunization with the R4 recombinant fragment, but not with the whole Spr1875 protein, induced significant protection against sepsis in mice. Lack of protection after immunization with the whole protein was related to the presence of immunodominant, non-protective epitopes located outside of the R4 fragment. In conclusion, our data indicate that Spr1875 has a role in pneumococcal virulence and is immunogenic. As the R4 fragment conferred immunoprotection from experimental sepsis, selected antigenic fragments of Spr1875 may be useful for the development of a pneumococcal protein-based vaccine.
The aerotolerant anaerobe Streptococcus pneumoniae is part of the normal nasopharyngeal microbiota of humans and one of the most important invasive pathogens. A genomic survey allowed establishing the occurrence of twenty-one phosphotransferase systems, seven carbohydrate uptake ABC transporters, one sodium∶solute symporter and a permease, underlining an exceptionally high capacity for uptake of carbohydrate substrates. Despite high genomic variability, combined phenotypic and genomic analysis of twenty sequenced strains did assign the substrate specificity only to two uptake systems. Systematic analysis of mutants for most carbohydrate transporters enabled us to assign a phenotype and substrate specificity to twenty-three transport systems. For five putative transporters for galactose, pentoses, ribonucleosides and sulphated glycans activity was inferred, but not experimentally confirmed and only one transport system remains with an unknown substrate and lack of any functional annotation. Using a metabolic approach, 80% of the thirty-two fermentable carbon substrates were assigned to the corresponding transporter. The complexity and robustness of sugar uptake is underlined by the finding that many transporters have multiple substrates, and many sugars are transported by more than one system. The present work permits to draw a functional map of the complete arsenal of carbohydrate utilisation proteins of pneumococci, allows re-annotation of genomic data and might serve as a reference for related species. These data provide tools for specific investigation of the roles of the different carbon substrates on pneumococcal physiology in the host during carriage and invasive infection.
Different models for biofilm in Streptococcus pneumoniae have been described in literature. To permit comparison of experimental data, we characterised the impact of the pneumococcal quorum-sensing competence system on biofilm formation in three models. For this scope, we used two microtiter and one continuous culture biofilm system.
In both microtiter models the competence system influences stability and structure of biofilm in the late attachment phase and synthetic competence stimulating peptide (CSP) restored wild type phenotypes in the comC mutants unable to produce the peptide. Early attachment of single cells to well bottoms was found for both systems to be competence independent, while later phases, including microcolony formation correlated to an intact competence system. The continuous culture biofilm model was not affected by mutations in the competence locus, but deletion of capsule had a significant impact in this model.
Since biofilm remains a largely uncharacterised multi-parameter phenotype it appears to be advisable to exploit more than one model in order to draw conclusion of possible relevance of specific genotypes on pneumococcal physiology.
Experimental animal models of bacterial meningitis are useful to study the host-pathogen interactions occurring at the cerebral level and to analyze the pathogenetic mechanisms behind this life-threatening disease. In this study, we have developed a mouse model of meningococcal meningitis based on the intracisternal inoculation of bacteria. Experiments were performed with mouse-passaged serogroup C Neisseria meningitidis. Survival and clinical parameters of infected mice and microbiological and histological analysis of the brain demonstrated the establishment of meningitis with features comparable to those of the disease in humans. When using low bacterial inocula, meningococcal replication in the brain was very efficient, with a 1,000-fold increase of viable counts in 18 h. Meningococci were also found in the blood, spleens, and livers of infected mice, and bacterial loads in different organs were dependent on the infectious dose. As glutamate uptake from the host has been implicated in meningococcal virulence, mice were infected intracisternally with an isogenic strain deficient in the ABC-type l-glutamate transporter GltT. Noticeably, the mutant was attenuated in virulence in mixed infections, indicating that wild-type bacteria outcompeted the GltT-deficient meningococci. The data show that the GltT transporter plays a role in meningitis and concomitant systemic infection, suggesting that meningococci may use l-glutamate as a nutrient source and as a precursor to synthesize the antioxidant glutathione.
Summary: Streptococcus pneumoniae is a colonizer of human nasopharynx, but it is also an important pathogen responsible for high morbidity, high mortality, numerous disabilities, and high health costs throughout the world. Major diseases caused by S. pneumoniae are otitis media, pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. Despite the availability of antibiotics and vaccines, pneumococcal infections still have high mortality rates, especially in risk groups. For this reason, there is an exceptionally extensive research effort worldwide to better understand the diseases caused by the pneumococcus, with the aim of developing improved therapeutics and vaccines. Animal experimentation is an essential tool to study the pathogenesis of infectious diseases and test novel drugs and vaccines. This article reviews both historical and innovative laboratory pneumococcal animal models that have vastly added to knowledge of (i) mechanisms of infection, pathogenesis, and immunity; (ii) efficacies of antimicrobials; and (iii) screening of vaccine candidates. A comprehensive description of the techniques applied to induce disease is provided, the advantages and limitations of mouse, rat, and rabbit models used to mimic pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis are discussed, and a section on otitis media models is also included. The choice of appropriate animal models for in vivo studies is a key element for improved understanding of pneumococcal disease.
The antigen-specific primary activation of CD4+ T cells was studied in vivo by adoptive transfer of ovalbumin-specific transgenic T cells (KJ1-26+ CD4+) following intranasal immunization with recombinant Streptococcus gordonii. A strain of S. gordonii expressing on its surface a model vaccine antigen fused to the ovalbumin (OVA) peptide from position 323 to 339 was constructed and used to study the OVA-specific T-cell activation in nasal mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (NALT), lymph nodes, and spleens of mice immunized by the intranasal route. The recombinant strain, but not the wild type, activated the OVA-specific CD4+ T-cell population in the NALT (89% of KJ1-26+ CD4+ T cells) just 3 days following immunization. In the cervical lymph nodes and in the spleen, the percentage of proliferating cells was initially low, but it reached the peak of activation at day 5 (90%). This antigen-specific clonal expansion of KJ1-26+ CD4+ T cells after intranasal immunization was obtained with live and inactivated recombinant bacteria, and it indicates that the NALT is the site of antigen-specific T-cell priming.
Two main patterns of gene expression of Streptococcus pneumoniae were observed during infection in the host by quantitative real time RT-PCR; one was characteristic of bacteria in blood and one of bacteria in tissue, such as brain and lung. Gene expression in blood was characterized by increased expression of pneumolysin, pspA and hrcA, while pneumococci in tissue infection showed increased expression of neuraminidases, metalloproteinases, oxidative stress and competence genes. In vitro situations with similar expression patterns were detected in liquid culture and in a newly developed pneumococcal model of biofilm respectively. The biofilm model was dependent on addition of synthetic competence stimulating peptide (CSP) and no biofilm was formed by CSP receptor mutants. As one of the differentially expressed gene sets in vivo were the competence genes, we exploited competence-specific tools to intervene on pneumococcal virulence during infection. Induction of the competence system by the quorum-sensing peptide, CSP, not only induced biofilm formation in vitro, but also increased virulence in pneumonia in vivo. In contrast, a mutant for the ComD receptor, which did not form biofilm, also showed reduced virulence in pneumonia. These results were opposite to those found in a bacteraemic sepsis model of infection, where the competence system was downregulated. When pneumococci in the different physiological states were used directly for challenge, sessile cells grown in a biofilm were more effective in inducing meningitis and pneumonia, while planktonic cells from liquid culture were more effective in inducing sepsis. Our data enable us, using in vivo gene expression and in vivo modulation of virulence, to postulate the distinction – from the pneumococcal point of view – between two main types of disease. During bacteraemic sepsis pneumococci resemble planktonic growth, while during tissue infection, such as pneumonia or meningitis, pneumococci are in a biofilm-like state.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, a major cause of human disease, produces a 17-mer autoinducer peptide pheromone (competence-stimulating peptide [CSP]) for the control of competence for genetic transformation. Due to previous work linking CSP to stress phenotypes, we set up an in vivo sepsis model to assay its effect on virulence. Our data demonstrate a significant increase in the rates of survival of mice, reductions of blood S. pneumoniae counts, and prolonged times to death for mice treated with CSP. In vitro the dose of CSP used in the animal model produced a transitory inhibition of growth. When a mutant with a mutation in the CSP sensor histidine kinase was assayed, no bacteriostatic phenotype was detected in vitro and no change in disease outcome was observed in vivo. The data demonstrate that CSP, which induces in vitro a temporary growth arrest through stimulation of its cognate histidine kinase receptor, is able to block systemic disease in mice. This therapeutic effect is novel, in that the drug-like effect is obtained by stimulation, rather than inhibition, of a bacterial drug target.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Pneumococcal meningitis is associated with the highest mortality among bacterial meningitis and it may also lead to neurological sequelae despite the use of antibiotic therapy. Experimental animal models of pneumococcal meningitis are important to study the pathogenesis of meningitis, the host immune response induced after infection, and the efficacy of novel drugs and vaccines.
In the present work, we describe in detail a simple, reproducible and efficient method to induce pneumococcal meningitis in outbred mice by using the intracranial subarachnoidal route of infection. Bacteria were injected into the subarachnoid space through a soft point located 3.5 mm rostral from the bregma. The model was tested with several doses of pneumococci of three capsular serotypes (2, 3 and 4), and mice survival was recorded. Lethal doses killing 50 % of animals infected with type 2, 3 and 4 S. pneumoniae were 3.2 × 10, 2.9 × 10 and 1.9 × 102 colony forming units, respectively. Characterisation of the disease caused by the type 4 strain showed that in moribund mice systemic dissemination of pneumococci to blood and spleen occurred. Histological analysis of the brain of animals infected with type 4 S. pneumoniae proved the induction of meningitis closely resembling the disease in humans.
The proposed method for inducing pneumococcal meningitis in outbred mice is easy-to-perform, fast, cost-effective, and reproducible, irrespective of the serotype of pneumococci used.
The role of pneumococcal surface protein C (PspC; also called SpsA, CbpA, and Hic) in sepsis by Streptococcus pneumoniae was investigated in a murine infection model. The pspC gene was deleted in strains D39 (type 2) and A66 (type 3), and the mutants were tested by being injected intravenously into mice. The animals infected with the mutant strains showed a significant increase in survival, with the 50% lethal dose up to 250-fold higher than that for the wild type. Our findings indicate that PspC affords a decisive contribution to sepsis development.
Interleukin-1 (IL-1) is a cytokine involved in the initiation and amplification of the defence response in infectious and inflammatory diseases. IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) is an inactive member of the IL-1 family and represents one of the most potent mechanisms for controlling IL-1-dependent inflammation. IL-1ra has proven effective in the therapy of acute and chronic inflammatory diseases in experimental animal models and also in preliminary clinical trials. However, optimisation of therapeutic schedules is still needed. For instance, the use of drug delivery systems targeting specific mucosal sites may be useful to improve topical bioavailability and avoid side effects associated with systemic administration.
In order to develop systems for the delivery of IL-1ra to mucosal target sites, a Streptococcus gordonii strain secreting human IL-1ra was constructed. The recombinant IL-1ra produced by S. gordonii was composed of the four amino acid residues RVFP of the fusion partner at the N-terminus, followed by the mature human IL-1ra protein. RFVP/IL-1ra displayed full biological activity in vitro in assays of inhibition of IL-1β-induced lymphocyte proliferation and was released by recombinant S. gordonii in vivo both at the vaginal and the gastrointestinal mucosa of mice. RFVP/IL-1ra appeared beneficial in the model of ulcerative colitis represented by IL-2-/- mice (knock-out for the interleukin-2 gene), as shown by the body weight increase of IL-2-/- mice locally treated with S. gordonii producing RFVP/IL-1ra.
These results indicate that recombinant S. gordonii can be successfully used as a delivery system for the selective targeting of mucosal surfaces with therapeutic proteins.
MtsABC is a Streptococcus pyogenes ABC transporter which was previously shown to be involved in iron and zinc accumulation. In this study, we showed that an mtsABC mutant has impaired growth, particularly in a metal-depleted medium and an aerobic environment. In metal-depleted medium, growth was restored by the addition of 10 μM MnCl2, whereas other metals had modest or no effect. A characterization of metal radioisotope accumulation showed that manganese competes with iron accumulation in a dose-dependent manner. Conversely, iron competes with manganese accumulation but to a lesser extent. The mutant showed a pronounced reduction (>90%) of 54Mn accumulation, showing that MtsABC is also involved in Mn transport. Using paraquat and hydrogen peroxide to induce oxidative stress, we show that the mutant has an increased susceptibility to reactive oxygen species. Moreover, activity of the manganese-cofactored superoxide dismutase in the mutant is reduced, probably as a consequence of reduced intracellular availability of manganese. The enzyme functionality was restored by manganese supplementation during growth. The mutant was also attenuated in virulence, as shown in animal experiments. These results emphasize the role of MtsABC and trace metals, especially manganese, for S. pyogenes growth, susceptibility to oxidative stress, and virulence.
Ferric uptake regulator (Fur) and Fur-like proteins form an important family of transcriptional regulators in many bacterial species. In this work we have characterized a Fur-like protein, the peroxide regulator PerR, in an M1 serotype of Streptococcus pyogenes. To determine the role of PerR in S. pyogenes, we inactivated the gene by allelic replacement. PerR-deficient bacteria showed 48% reduction of 55Fe incorporation from the culture medium. Transcriptional analysis revealed that mtsA, encoding a metal-binding protein of an ABC transporter in S. pyogenes, was transcribed at lower levels than were wild-type cells. Although total iron accumulation was reduced, the growth of the mutant strain was not significantly hampered. The mutant showed hyperresistance to hydrogen peroxide, and this response was induced in wild-type cells by growth in aerobiosis, suggesting that PerR acts as an oxidative stress-responsive repressor. PerR may also participate in the response to superoxide stress, as the perR mutant was more sensitive to the superoxide anion and had a reduced transcription of sodA, which encodes the sole superoxide dismutase of S. pyogenes. Complementation of the mutation with a functional perR gene restored 55Fe incorporation, response to peroxide stress, and transcription of both mtsA and sodA to levels comparable to those of wild-type bacteria. Finally, the perR mutant was attenuated in virulence in a murine air sac model of infection (P < 0.05). These results demonstrate that PerR is involved in the regulation of iron homeostasis and oxidative stress responses and that it contributes to the virulence of S. pyogenes.
The B monomer of the Escherichia coli heat-labile toxin (LTB) was expressed on the surface of the human oral commensal bacterium Streptococcus gordonii. Recombinant bacteria expressing LTB were used to immunize BALB/c mice subcutaneously and intragastrically. The LTB monomer expressed on the streptococcal surface proved to be highly immunogenic, as LTB-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) serum titers of 140,000 were induced after systemic immunization. Most significantly, these antibodies were capable of neutralizing the enterotoxin in a cell neutralization assay. Following mucosal delivery, antigen-specific IgA antibodies were found in feces and antigen-specific IgG antibodies were found in sera. Analysis of serum IgG subclasses showed a clear predominance of IgG1 when recombinant bacteria were inoculated subcutaneously, while a prevalence of IgG2a was observed upon intragastric delivery, suggesting, in this case, the recruitment of a Th1 type of immune response.