Publications by authors named "Marco Soriani"

49 Publications

Immunogenicity of a new gorilla adenovirus vaccine candidate for COVID-19.

Mol Ther 2021 Apr 23. Epub 2021 Apr 23.

ReiThera Srl, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by the emergent severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) threatens global public health, and there is an urgent need to develop safe and effective vaccines. Here, we report the generation and the preclinical evaluation of a novel replication-defective gorilla adenovirus-vectored vaccine encoding the pre-fusion stabilized Spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2. We show that our vaccine candidate, GRAd-COV2, is highly immunogenic both in mice and macaques, eliciting both functional antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-2 infection and block Spike protein binding to the ACE2 receptor, and a robust, T helper (Th)1-dominated cellular response. We show here that the pre-fusion stabilized Spike antigen is superior to the wild type in inducing ACE2-interfering, SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies. To face the unprecedented need for vaccine manufacturing at a massive scale, different GRAd genome deletions were compared to select the vector backbone showing the highest productivity in stirred tank bioreactors. This preliminary dataset identified GRAd-COV2 as a potential COVID-19 vaccine candidate, supporting the translation of the GRAd-COV2 vaccine in a currently ongoing phase I clinical trial (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT04528641).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ymthe.2021.04.022DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8062434PMC
April 2021

Identification of lipid A deacylase as a novel, highly conserved and protective antigen against enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli.

Sci Rep 2019 11 19;9(1):17014. Epub 2019 Nov 19.

GSK, Via Fiorentina 1, 53100, Siena, Italy.

Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) is a major cause of large outbreaks worldwide associated with hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome. While vaccine development is warranted, a licensed vaccine, specific for human use, against EHEC is not yet available. In this study, the reverse vaccinology approach combined with genomic, transcriptional and molecular epidemiology data was applied on the EHEC O157:H7 genome to select new potential vaccine candidates. Twenty-four potential protein antigens were identified and one of them (MC001) was successfully expressed onto Generalized Modules for Membrane Antigens (GMMA) delivery system. GMMA expressing this vaccine candidate was immunogenic, raising a specific antibody response. Immunization with the MC001 candidate was able to reduce the bacterial load of EHEC O157:H7 strain in feces, colon and caecum tissues after murine infection. MC001 is homologue to lipid A deacylase enzyme (LpxR), and to our knowledge, this is the first study describing it as a potential vaccine candidate. Gene distribution and sequence variability analysis showed that MC001 is present and conserved in EHEC and in enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) strains. Given the high genetic variability among and within E. coli pathotypes, the identification of such conserved antigen suggests that its inclusion in a vaccine might represent a solution against major intestinal pathogenic strains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-53197-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6863877PMC
November 2019

Unraveling pathogenesis: from functional genomics to experimental models.

Authors:
Marco Soriani

F1000Res 2017 26;6:1228. Epub 2017 Jul 26.

Toscana Life Sciences Foundation, Sienna, Italy.

is a harmless commensal bacterium finely adapted to humans. Unfortunately, under "privileged" conditions, it adopts a "devious" lifestyle leading to uncontrolled behavior characterized by the unleashing of molecular weapons causing potentially lethal disease such as sepsis and acute meningitis. Indeed, despite the lack of a classic repertoire of virulence genes in separating commensal from invasive strains, molecular epidemiology and functional genomics studies suggest that carriage and invasive strains belong to genetically distinct populations characterized by an exclusive pathogenic potential. In the last few years, "omics" technologies have helped scientists to unwrap the framework drawn by during different stages of colonization and disease. However, this scenario is still incomplete and would benefit from the implementation of physiological tissue models for the reproduction of mucosal and systemic interactions . These emerging technologies supported by recent advances in the world of stem cell biology hold the promise for a further understanding of pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.11279.1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5531161PMC
July 2017

A secretome view of colonisation factors in Shiga toxin-encoding Escherichia coli (STEC): from enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) to related enteropathotypes.

FEMS Microbiol Lett 2016 08 26;363(16). Epub 2016 Jul 26.

INRA, UR454 Microbiologie, F-63122 Saint-Genès Champanelle, France

Shiga toxin-encoding Escherichia coli (STEC) regroup strains that carry genes encoding Shiga toxin (Stx). Among intestinal pathogenic E. coli, enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) constitute the major subgroup of virulent STEC. EHEC cause serious human disease such as haemorrhagic colitis and haemolytic-uremic syndrome. While EHEC have evolved from enteropathogenic E. coli, hybrids with enteroaggregative E. coli have recently emerged. Of note, some enteroinvasive E. coli also belong to the STEC group. While the LEE (locus of enterocyte effacement) is a key and prominent molecular determinant in the pathogenicity, neither all EHEC nor STEC contain the LEE, suggesting that they possess additional virulence and colonisation factors. Currently, nine protein secretion systems have been described in diderm-lipopolysaccharide bacteria (archetypal Gram-negative) and can be involved in the secretion of extracellular effectors, cell-surface proteins or assembly of cell-surface organelles, such as flagella or pili. In this review, we focus on the secretome of STEC and related enteropathotypes, which are relevant to the colonisation of biotic and abiotic surfaces. Considering the wealth of potential protein trafficking mechanisms, the different combinations of colonisation factors and modulation of their expression is further emphasised with regard to the ecophysiology of STEC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/femsle/fnw179DOI Listing
August 2016

3D Reconstruction of the Human Airway Mucosa In Vitro as an Experimental Model to Study NTHi Infections.

PLoS One 2016 21;11(4):e0153985. Epub 2016 Apr 21.

GSK Vaccines S.r.l., via Fiorentina 1, 53100, Siena, Italy.

We have established an in vitro 3D system which recapitulates the human tracheo-bronchial mucosa comprehensive of the pseudostratified epithelium and the underlying stromal tissue. In particular, we reported that the mature model, entirely constituted of primary cells of human origin, develops key markers proper of the native tissue such as the mucociliary differentiation of the epithelial sheet and the formation of the basement membrane. The infection of the pseudo-tissue with a strain of NonTypeable Haemophilus influenzae results in bacteria association and crossing of the mucus layer leading to an apparent targeting of the stromal space where they release large amounts of vesicles and form macro-structures. In summary, we propose our in vitro model as a reliable and potentially customizable system to study mid/long term host-pathogen processes.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0153985PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4839639PMC
March 2017

Auto-Assembling Detoxified Staphylococcus aureus Alpha-Hemolysin Mimicking the Wild-Type Cytolytic Toxin.

Clin Vaccine Immunol 2016 06 6;23(6):442-50. Epub 2016 Jun 6.

GSK Vaccines, Research Center, Siena, Italy

Staphylococcus aureus alpha-hemolysin (Hla) assembles into heptameric pores on the host cell membrane, causing lysis, apoptosis, and junction disruption. Herein, we present the design of a newly engineered S. aureus alpha-toxin, HlaPSGS, which lacks the predicted membrane-spanning stem domain. This protein is able to form heptamers in aqueous solution in the absence of lipophilic substrata, and its structure, obtained by transmission electron microscopy and single-particle reconstruction analysis, resembles the cap of the wild-type cytolytic Hla pore. HlaPSGS was found to be impaired in binding to host cells and to its receptor ADAM10 and to lack hemolytic and cytotoxic activity. Immunological studies using human sera as well as sera from mice convalescent from S. aureus infection suggested that the heptameric conformation of HlaPSGS mimics epitopes exposed by the cytolytic Hla pore during infection. Finally, immunization with this newly engineered Hla generated high protective immunity against staphylococcal infection in mice. Overall, this study provides unprecedented data on the natural immune response against Hla and suggests that the heptameric HlaPSGS is a highly valuable vaccine candidate against S. aureus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.00091-16DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4895005PMC
June 2016

Dual RNA-seq of Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae and Host Cell Transcriptomes Reveals Novel Insights into Host-Pathogen Cross Talk.

mBio 2015 Nov 17;6(6):e01765-15. Epub 2015 Nov 17.

R&D Centre, GSK Vaccines, Siena, Italy.

Unlabelled: The ability to adhere and adapt to the human respiratory tract mucosa plays a pivotal role in the pathogenic lifestyle of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi). However, the temporal events associated with a successful colonization have not been fully characterized. In this study, by reconstituting the ciliated human bronchial epithelium in vitro, we monitored the global transcriptional changes in NTHi and infected mucosal epithelium simultaneously for up to 72 h by dual RNA sequencing. The initial stage of colonization was characterized by the binding of NTHi to ciliated cells. Temporal profiling of host mRNA signatures revealed significant dysregulation of the target cell cytoskeleton elicited by bacterial infection, with a profound effect on the intermediate filament network and junctional complexes. In response to environmental stimuli of the host epithelium, NTHi downregulated its central metabolism and increased the expression of transporters, indicating a change in the metabolic regime due to the availability of host substrates. Concurrently, the oxidative environment generated by infected cells instigated bacterial expression of stress-induced defense mechanisms, including the transport of exogenous glutathione and activation of the toxin-antitoxin system. The results of this analysis were validated by those of confocal microscopy, Western blotting, Bio-plex, and real-time quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR). Notably, as part of our screening for novel signatures of infection, we identified a global profile of noncoding transcripts that are candidate small RNAs (sRNAs) regulated during human host infection in Haemophilus species. Our data, by providing a robust and comprehensive representation of the cross talk between the host and invading pathogen, provides important insights into NTHi pathogenesis and the development of efficacious preventive strategies.

Importance: Simultaneous monitoring of infection-linked transcriptome alterations in an invading pathogen and its target host cells represents a key strategy for identifying regulatory responses that drive pathogenesis. In this study, we report the progressive events of NTHi colonization in a highly differentiated model of ciliated bronchial epithelium. Genome-wide transcriptome maps of NTHi during infection provided mechanistic insights into bacterial adaptive responses to the host niche, with modulation of the central metabolism as an important signature of the evolving milieu. Our data indicate that infected epithelia respond by substantial alteration of the cytoskeletal network and cytokine repertoire, revealing a dynamic cross talk that is responsible for the onset of inflammation. This work significantly enhances our understanding of the means by which NTHi promotes infection on human mucosae and reveals novel strategies exploited by this important pathogen to cause invasive disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mBio.01765-15DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4659474PMC
November 2015

Identification of a Monoclonal Antibody Against Pneumococcal Pilus 1 Ancillary Protein Impairing Bacterial Adhesion to Human Epithelial Cells.

J Infect Dis 2016 Feb 23;213(4):516-22. Epub 2015 Sep 23.

GSK Vaccines, Siena.

The adhesion of Streptococcus pneumoniae is a key step during colonization of human respiratory tract mucosae. Here we demonstrate that pneumococcal type I pilus significantly increases the adhesiveness of poorly adhering highly capsulated strains in vitro. Interestingly, preincubation of bacteria with antibodies against the major pilus backbone subunit (RrgB) or the adhesin component (RrgA) impaired pneumococcal association to human epithelial cells. Screening for anti-RrgA monoclonal antibodies specifically affecting the adhesive capacity of S. pneumoniae led to the identification of the monoclonal 11B9/61 antibody, which greatly reduced pilus-dependent cell contact. Proteomic-based epitope mapping of 11B9/61 monoclonal antibody revealed a well-exposed epitope on the D2 domain of RrgA as the target of this functional antibody. The data presented here confirm the importance of pilus I for S. pneumoniae pathogenesis and the potential use of antipilus antibodies to prevent bacterial colonization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiv461DOI Listing
February 2016

The Human Pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes Releases Lipoproteins as Lipoprotein-rich Membrane Vesicles.

Mol Cell Proteomics 2015 Aug 27;14(8):2138-49. Epub 2015 May 27.

From the ‡Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics (a GSK company), Via Fiorentiina 1, 53100 Siena, Itlay;

Bacterial lipoproteins are attractive vaccine candidates because they represent a major class of cell surface-exposed proteins in many bacteria and are considered as potential pathogen-associated molecular patterns sensed by Toll-like receptors with built-in adjuvanticity. Although Gram-negative lipoproteins have been extensively characterized, little is known about Gram-positive lipoproteins. We isolated from Streptococcus pyogenes a large amount of lipoproteins organized in vesicles. These vesicles were obtained by weakening the bacterial cell wall with a sublethal concentration of penicillin. Lipid and proteomic analysis of the vesicles revealed that they were enriched in phosphatidylglycerol and almost exclusively composed of lipoproteins. In association with lipoproteins, a few hypothetical proteins, penicillin-binding proteins, and several members of the ExPortal, a membrane microdomain responsible for the maturation of secreted proteins, were identified. The typical lipidic moiety was apparently not necessary for lipoprotein insertion in the vesicle bilayer because they were also recovered from the isogenic diacylglyceryl transferase deletion mutant. The vesicles were not able to activate specific Toll-like receptor 2, indicating that lipoproteins organized in these vesicular structures do not act as pathogen-associated molecular patterns. In light of these findings, we propose to name these new structures Lipoprotein-rich Membrane Vesicles.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/mcp.M114.045880DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4528243PMC
August 2015

The Neisseria meningitidis ADP-Ribosyltransferase NarE Enters Human Epithelial Cells and Disrupts Epithelial Monolayer Integrity.

PLoS One 2015 21;10(5):e0127614. Epub 2015 May 21.

Vaccines & Diagnostics s.r.l.-a GSK company- Via Fiorentina 1, Siena, Italy.

Many pathogenic bacteria utilize ADP-ribosylating toxins to modify and impair essential functions of eukaryotic cells. It has been previously reported that Neisseria meningitidis possesses an ADP-ribosyltransferase enzyme, NarE, retaining the capacity to hydrolyse NAD and to transfer ADP-ribose moiety to arginine residues in target acceptor proteins. Here we show that upon internalization into human epithelial cells, NarE gains access to the cytoplasm and, through its ADP-ribosylating activity, targets host cell proteins. Notably, we observed that these events trigger the disruption of the epithelial monolayer integrity and the activation of the apoptotic pathway. Overall, our findings provide, for the first time, evidence for a biological activity of NarE on host cells, suggesting its possible involvement in Neisseria pathogenesis.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0127614PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4440719PMC
February 2016

Development of a serological assay to predict antibody bactericidal activity against non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae.

BMC Microbiol 2015 Apr 18;15:87. Epub 2015 Apr 18.

Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics s.r.l. (a GSK company), Via Fiorentina 1, 53100, Siena, Italy.

Background: Non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) is a Gram negative microorganism residing in the human nasopharyngeal mucosa and occasionally causing infections of both middle ear and lower respiratory airways. A broadly protective vaccine against NTHi has been a long-unmet medical need, as the high genetic variability of this bacterium has posed great challenges.

Results: In this study, we developed a robust serum bactericidal assay (SBA) to optimize the selection of protective antigens against NTHi. SBA takes advantage of the complement-mediated lysis of bacterial cells and is a key in vitro method for measuring the functional activity of antibodies. As a proof of concept, we assessed the bactericidal activity of antibodies directed against antigens known to elicit a protective response, including protein D used as carrier protein in the Synflorix pneumococcal polysaccharide conjugate vaccine. Prior to SBA screening, the accessibility of antigens to antibodies and the capacity of the latter to induce C3 complement deposition was verified by flow cytometry. Using baby rabbit serum as a source of complement, the proposed assay not only confirmed the bactericidal activity of the antibodies against the selected vaccine candidates, but also showed a significant reproducibility.

Conclusions: Considering the rapidity and cost-effectiveness of this novel SBA protocol, we conclude that it is likely to become an important tool to prove the capability of antibodies directed against recombinant antigens to induce NTHi in vitro killing and to both select new protective vaccine candidates, and predict vaccine efficacy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12866-015-0420-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4409741PMC
April 2015

Whole-Genome Sequences of Nonencapsulated Haemophilus influenzae Strains Isolated in Italy.

Genome Announc 2015 Mar 26;3(2). Epub 2015 Mar 26.

Novartis Vaccines, Siena, Italy.

Haemophilus influenzae is an important human pathogen involved in invasive disease. Here, we report the whole-genome sequences of 11 nonencapsulated H. influenzae (ncHi) strains isolated from both invasive disease and healthy carriers in Italy. This genomic information will enrich our understanding of the molecular basis of ncHi pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/genomeA.00110-15DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4384133PMC
March 2015

Neisseria meningitidis subverts the polarized organization and intracellular trafficking of host cells to cross the epithelial barrier.

Cell Microbiol 2015 Sep 23;17(9):1365-75. Epub 2015 Apr 23.

Department of Microbial Molecular Biology, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics (a GSK company), Siena, Italy.

Translocation of the nasopharyngeal barrier by Neisseria meningitidis occurs via an intracellular microtubule-dependent pathway and represents a crucial step in its pathogenesis. Despite this fact, the interaction of invasive meningococci with host subcellular compartments and the resulting impact on their organization and function have not been investigated. The influence of serogroup B strain MC58 on host cell polarity and intracellular trafficking system was assessed by confocal microscopy visualization of different plasma membrane-associated components (such as E-cadherin, ZO-1 and transferrin receptor) and evaluation of the transferrin uptake and recycling in infected Calu-3 monolayers. Additionally, the association of N. meningitidis with different endosomal compartments was evaluated through the concomitant staining of bacteria and markers specific for Rab11, Rab22a, Rab25 and Rab3 followed by confocal microscopy imaging. Subversion of the host cell architecture and intracellular trafficking system, denoted by mis-targeting of cell plasma membrane components and perturbations of transferrin transport, was shown to occur in response to N. meningitidis infection. Notably, the appearance of all of these events seems to positively correlate with the efficiency of N. meningitidis to cross the epithelial barrier. Our data reveal for the first time that N. meningitidis is able to modulate the host cell architecture and function, which might serve as a strategy of this pathogen for overcoming the nasopharyngeal barrier without affecting the monolayer integrity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cmi.12439DOI Listing
September 2015

Pathogenic E. coli exploits SslE mucinase activity to translocate through the mucosal barrier and get access to host cells.

PLoS One 2015 19;10(3):e0117486. Epub 2015 Mar 19.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics S.r.l., Via Fiorentina 1, Siena, Italy.

SslE is a zinc-metalloprotease involved in the degradation of mucin substrates and recently proposed as a potential vaccine candidate against pathogenic E. coli. In this paper, by exploiting a human in vitro model of mucus-secreting cells, we demonstrated that bacteria expressing SslE have a metabolic benefit which results in an increased growth rate postulating the importance of this antigen in enhancing E. coli fitness. We also observed that SslE expression facilitates E. coli penetration of the mucus favouring bacteria adhesion to host cells. Moreover, we found that SslE-mediated opening of the mucosae contributed to the activation of pro-inflammatory events. Indeed, intestinal cells infected with SslE-secreting bacteria showed an increased production of IL-8 contributing to neutrophil recruitment. The results presented in this paper conclusively designate SslE as an important colonization factor favouring E. coli access to both metabolic substrates and target cells.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0117486PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4366376PMC
April 2016

LytM proteins play a crucial role in cell separation, outer membrane composition, and pathogenesis in nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae.

mBio 2015 Feb 24;6(2):e02575. Epub 2015 Feb 24.

Novartis Vaccines, Siena, Italy

Unlabelled: LytM proteins belong to a family of bacterial metalloproteases. In Gram-negative bacteria, LytM factors are mainly reported to have a direct effect on cell division by influencing cleavage and remodeling of peptidoglycan. In this study, mining nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI) genomes, three highly conserved open reading frames (ORFs) containing a LytM domain were identified, and the proteins encoded by the ORFs were named YebA, EnvC, and NlpD on the basis of their homology with the Escherichia coli proteins. Immunoblotting and confocal analysis showed that while NTHI NlpD is exposed on the bacterial surface, YebA and EnvC reside in the periplasm. NTHI ΔyebA and ΔnlpD deletion mutants revealed an aberrant division phenotype characterized by an altered cell architecture and extensive membrane blebbing. The morphology of the ΔenvC deletion mutant was identical to that of the wild-type strain, but it showed a drastic reduction of periplasmic proteins, including the chaperones HtrA, SurA, and Skp, and an accumulation of β-barrel-containing outer membrane proteins comprising the autotransporters Hap, IgA serine protease, and HMW2A, as observed by proteomic analysis. These data suggest that EnvC may influence the bacterial surface protein repertoire by facilitating the passage of the periplasmic chaperones through the peptidoglycan layer to the close vicinity of the inner face of the outer membrane. This hypothesis was further corroborated by the fact that an NTHI envC defective strain had an impaired capacity to adhere to epithelial cells and to form biofilm. Notably, this strain also showed a reduced serum resistance. These results suggest that LytM factors are not only important components of cell division but they may also influence NTHI physiology and pathogenesis by affecting membrane composition.

Importance: Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI) is an opportunistic pathogen that colonizes the human nasopharynx and can cause serious infections in children (acute otitis media) and adults (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Several virulence factors are well studied, but the complete scenario of NTHI pathogenesis is still unclear. We identified and characterized three NTHI LytM factors homologous to the Escherichia coli LytM proteins. Although LytM factors are reported to play a crucial role in the cell division process, in NTHI they are also involved in other bacterial functions. In particular, YebA and NlpD are fundamental for membrane stability: indeed, their absence causes an increased release of outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). On the other hand, our data suggest that EnvC could directly or indirectly affect peptidoglycan permeability and consequently, bacterial periplasmic and outer membrane protein distribution. Interestingly, by modulating the surface composition of virulence determinants, EnvC also has an impact on NTHI pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mBio.02575-14DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4358004PMC
February 2015

Protectome analysis: a new selective bioinformatics tool for bacterial vaccine candidate discovery.

Mol Cell Proteomics 2015 Feb 3;14(2):418-29. Epub 2014 Nov 3.

From the ‡Research Department, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, 53100 Siena, Italy.

New generation vaccines are in demand to include only the key antigens sufficient to confer protective immunity among the plethora of pathogen molecules. In the last decade, large-scale genomics-based technologies have emerged. Among them, the Reverse Vaccinology approach was successfully applied to the development of an innovative vaccine against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B, now available on the market with the commercial name BEXSERO® (Novartis Vaccines). The limiting step of such approaches is the number of antigens to be tested in in vivo models. Several laboratories have been trying to refine the original approach in order to get to the identification of the relevant antigens straight from the genome. Here we report a new bioinformatics tool that moves a first step in this direction. The tool has been developed by identifying structural/functional features recurring in known bacterial protective antigens, the so called "Protectome space," and using such "protective signatures" for protective antigen discovery. In particular, we applied this new approach to Staphylococcus aureus and Group B Streptococcus and we show that not only already known protective antigens were re-discovered, but also two new protective antigens were identified.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/mcp.M114.039362DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350036PMC
February 2015

SslE elicits functional antibodies that impair in vitro mucinase activity and in vivo colonization by both intestinal and extraintestinal Escherichia coli strains.

PLoS Pathog 2014 May 8;10(5):e1004124. Epub 2014 May 8.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Srl, Siena, Italy.

SslE, the Secreted and surface-associated lipoprotein from Escherichia coli, has recently been associated to the M60-like extracellular zinc-metalloprotease sub-family which is implicated in glycan recognition and processing. SslE can be divided into two main variants and we recently proposed it as a potential vaccine candidate. By applying a number of in vitro bioassays and comparing wild type, knockout mutant and complemented strains, we have now demonstrated that SslE specifically contributes to degradation of mucin substrates, typically present in the intestine and bladder. Mutation of the zinc metallopeptidase motif of SslE dramatically impaired E. coli mucinase activity, confirming the specificity of the phenotype observed. Moreover, antibodies raised against variant I SslE, cloned from strain IHE3034 (SslEIHE3034), are able to inhibit translocation of E. coli strains expressing different variants through a mucin-based matrix, suggesting that SslE induces cross-reactive functional antibodies that affect the metallopeptidase activity. To test this hypothesis, we used well-established animal models and demonstrated that immunization with SslEIHE3034 significantly reduced gut, kidney and spleen colonization by strains producing variant II SslE and belonging to different pathotypes. Taken together, these data strongly support the importance of SslE in E. coli colonization of mucosal surfaces and reinforce the use of this antigen as a component of a broadly protective vaccine against pathogenic E. coli species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1004124DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4014459PMC
May 2014

SpyAD, a moonlighting protein of group A Streptococcus contributing to bacterial division and host cell adhesion.

Infect Immun 2014 Jul 28;82(7):2890-901. Epub 2014 Apr 28.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Srl, Siena, Italy.

Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a human pathogen causing a wide repertoire of mild and severe diseases for which no vaccine is yet available. We recently reported the identification of three protein antigens that in combination conferred wide protection against GAS infection in mice. Here we focused our attention on the characterization of one of these three antigens, Spy0269, a highly conserved, surface-exposed, and immunogenic protein of unknown function. Deletion of the spy0269 gene in a GAS M1 isolate resulted in very long bacterial chains, which is indicative of an impaired capacity of the knockout mutant to properly divide. Confocal microscopy and immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated that the protein was mainly localized at the cell septum and could interact in vitro with the cell division protein FtsZ, leading us to hypothesize that Spy0269 is a member of the GAS divisome machinery. Predicted structural domains and sequence homologies with known streptococcal adhesins suggested that this antigen could also play a role in mediating GAS interaction with host cells. This hypothesis was confirmed by showing that recombinant Spy0269 could bind to mammalian epithelial cells in vitro and that Lactococcus lactis expressing Spy0269 on its cell surface could adhere to mammalian cells in vitro and to mice nasal mucosa in vivo. On the basis of these data, we believe that Spy0269 is involved both in bacterial cell division and in adhesion to host cells and we propose to rename this multifunctional moonlighting protein as SpyAD (Streptococcus pyogenes Adhesion and Division protein).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/IAI.00064-14DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4097626PMC
July 2014

Genome sequencing of disease and carriage isolates of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae identifies discrete population structure.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014 Apr 25;111(14):5439-44. Epub 2014 Mar 25.

Novartis Vaccines, 53100 Siena, Italy.

One of the main hurdles for the development of an effective and broadly protective vaccine against nonencapsulated isolates of Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) lies in the genetic diversity of the species, which renders extremely difficult the identification of cross-protective candidate antigens. To assess whether a population structure of NTHi could be defined, we performed genome sequencing of a collection of diverse clinical isolates representative of both carriage and disease and of the diversity of the natural population. Analysis of the distribution of polymorphic sites in the core genome and of the composition of the accessory genome defined distinct evolutionary clades and supported a predominantly clonal evolution of NTHi, with the majority of genetic information transmitted vertically within lineages. A correlation between the population structure and the presence of selected surface-associated proteins and lipooligosaccharide structure, known to contribute to virulence, was found. This high-resolution, genome-based population structure of NTHi provides the foundation to obtain a better understanding, of NTHi adaptation to the host as well as its commensal and virulence behavior, that could facilitate intervention strategies against disease caused by this important human pathogen.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1403353111DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3986186PMC
April 2014

Clostridium difficile toxins facilitate bacterial colonization by modulating the fence and gate function of colonic epithelium.

J Infect Dis 2014 Apr 22;209(7):1095-104. Epub 2013 Nov 22.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Via Fiorentina 1, Siena, Italy.

The contribution of Clostridium difficile toxin A and B (TcdA and TcdB) to cellular intoxication has been studied extensively, but their impact on bacterial colonization remains unclear. By setting up 2- and 3-dimensional in vitro models of polarized gut epithelium, we investigated how C. difficile infection is affected by host cell polarity and whether TcdA and TcdB contribute to such events. Indeed, we observed that C. difficile adhesion and penetration of the mucosal barrier are substantially enhanced in poorly polarized or ethylene glycol tetraacetic acid-treated cells, indicating that bacteria bind preferentially to the basolateral (BL) cell surface. In this context, we demonstrated that sub-lethal concentrations of C. difficile TcdA are able to alter cell polarity by causing redistribution of plasma membrane components between distinct surface domains. Taken together, the data suggest that toxin-mediated modulation of host cell organization may account for the capacity of this opportunistic pathogen to gain access to BL receptors, leading to a successful colonization of the colonic mucosa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jit617DOI Listing
April 2014

Neisseria gonorrhoeae PIII has a role on NG1873 outer membrane localization and is involved in bacterial adhesion to human cervical and urethral epithelial cells.

BMC Microbiol 2013 Nov 9;13:251. Epub 2013 Nov 9.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, S,r,L, Via Fiorentina 1, Siena 53100, Italy.

Background: Protein PIII is one of the major outer membrane proteins of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, 95% identical to RmpM (reduction modifiable protein M) or class 4 protein of Neisseria meningitidis. RmpM is known to be a membrane protein associated by non-covalent bonds to the peptidoglycan layer and interacting with PorA/PorB porin complexes resulting in the stabilization of the bacterial membrane. The C-terminal domain of PIII (and RmpM) is highly homologous to members of the OmpA family, known to have a role in adhesion/invasion in many bacterial species. The contribution of PIII in the membrane architecture and its role in the interaction with epithelial cells has never been investigated.

Results: We generated a ΔpIII knock-out mutant strain and evaluated the effects of the loss of PIII expression on bacterial morphology and on outer membrane composition. Deletion of the pIII gene does not cause any alteration in bacterial morphology or sensitivity to detergents. Moreover, the expression profile of the main membrane proteins remains the same for the wild-type and knock-out strains, with the exception of the NG1873 which is not exported to the outer membrane and accumulates in the inner membrane in the ΔpIII knock-out mutant strain.We also show that purified PIII protein is able to bind human cervical and urethral cells and that the ΔpIII knock-out mutant strain has a lower ability to adhere to human cervical and urethral cells.

Conclusion: Here we demonstrated that the PIII protein does not play a key structural role in the membrane organization of gonococcus and does not induce major effects on the expression of the main outer membrane proteins. However, in the PIII knock-out strain, the NG1873 protein is not localized in the outer membrane as it is in the wild-type strain suggesting a possible interaction of PIII with NG1873. The evidence that PIII binds to human epithelial cells derived from the female and male genital tract highlights a possible role of PIII in the virulence of gonococcus and suggests that the structural homology to OmpA is conserved also at functional level.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2180-13-251DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4226279PMC
November 2013

Crystal structure of c5321: a protective antigen present in uropathogenic Escherichia coli strains displaying an SLR fold.

BMC Struct Biol 2013 Oct 7;13:19. Epub 2013 Oct 7.

Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra 08193, Spain.

Background: Increasing rates of antimicrobial resistance among uropathogens led, among other efforts, to the application of subtractive reverse vaccinology for the identification of antigens present in extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) strains but absent or variable in non-pathogenic strains, in a quest for a broadly protective Escherichia coli vaccine. The protein coded by locus c5321 from CFT073 E. coli was identified as one of nine potential vaccine candidates against ExPEC and was able to confer protection with an efficacy of 33% in a mouse model of sepsis. c5321 (known also as EsiB) lacks functional annotation and structurally belongs to the Sel1-like repeat (SLR) family. Herein, as part of the general characterization of this potential antigen, we have focused on its structural properties.

Results: We report the 1.74 Å-resolution crystal structure of c5321 from CFT073 E. coli determined by Se-Met SAD phasing. The structure is composed of 11 SLR units in a topological organisation that highly resembles that found in HcpC from Helicobacter pylori, with the main difference residing in how the super-helical fold is stabilised. The stabilising effect of disulfide bridges in HcpC is replaced in c5321 by a strengthening of the inter-repeat hydrophobic core. A metal-ion binding site, uncharacteristic of SLR proteins, is detected between SLR units 3 and 4 in the region of the inter-repeat hydrophobic core. Crystal contacts are observed between the C-terminal tail of one molecule and the C-terminal amphipathic groove of a neighbouring one, resembling interactions between ligand and proteins containing tetratricopeptide-like repeats.

Conclusions: The structure of antigen c5321 presents a mode of stabilization of the SLR fold different from that observed in close homologs of known structure. The location of the metal-ion binding site and the observed crystal contacts suggest a potential role in regulation of conformational flexibility and interaction with yet unidentified target proteins, respectively. These findings open new perspectives in both antigen design and for the identification of a functional role for this protective antigen.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1472-6807-13-19DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3851747PMC
October 2013

Outer membrane vesicles reflect environmental cues in Gallibacterium anatis.

Vet Microbiol 2013 Dec 12;167(3-4):565-72. Epub 2013 Sep 12.

Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, 1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark.

The Gram-negative bacterium Gallibacterium anatis is a major cause of salpingitis and peritonitis in egg-laying chickens, leading to decreased egg-production worldwide. Increased knowledge of the pathogenesis and virulence factors is important to better understand and prevent the negative effects of G. anatis. To this end outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) are natural secretion products of Gram-negative bacteria, displaying an enormous functional diversity and promising results as vaccine candidates. This is the first study to report that G. anatis secretes OMVs during in vitro growth. By use of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and SDS-PAGE, we showed that changes in in vitro growth conditions, including incubation time, media composition and temperature, affected the OMV production and protein composition. A large protein band was increased in its concentration after prolonged growth. Analysis by LC-MS/MS indicated that the band contained two proteins; the 320.1 kDa FHA precursor, FhaB, and a 407.8 kDa protein containing a von Willebrand factor type A (vWA) domain. Additional two major outer-membrane (OM) proteins could be identified in all samples; the OmpH-homolog, OmpC, and OmpA. To understand the OMV formation better, a tolR deletion mutation (ΔtolR) was generated in G. anatis. This resulted in a constantly high and growth-phase independent production of OMVs, suggesting that depletion of peptidoglycan linkages plays a role in the OMV formation in G. anatis. In conclusion, our results show that G. anatis produce OMVs in vitro and the OMV protein profile suggests that the production is an important and well-regulated ability employed by the bacteria, which may be used for vaccine production purposes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetmic.2013.09.005DOI Listing
December 2013

EsiB, a novel pathogenic Escherichia coli secretory immunoglobulin A-binding protein impairing neutrophil activation.

mBio 2013 Jul 23;4(4). Epub 2013 Jul 23.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Srl, Siena, Italy.

Unlabelled: In this study, we have characterized the functional properties of a novel Escherichia coli antigen named EsiB (E. coli secretory immunoglobulin A-binding protein), recently reported to protect mice from sepsis. Gene distribution analysis of a panel of 267 strains representative of different E. coli pathotypes revealed that esiB is preferentially associated with extraintestinal strains, while the gene is rarely found in either intestinal or nonpathogenic strains. These findings were supported by the presence of anti-EsiB antibodies in the sera of patients affected by urinary tract infections (UTIs). By solving its crystal structure, we observed that EsiB adopts a superhelical fold composed of Sel1-like repeats (SLRs), a feature often associated with bacterial proteins possessing immunomodulatory functions. Indeed, we found that EsiB interacts with secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) through a specific motif identified by an immunocapturing approach. Functional assays showed that EsiB binding to SIgA is likely to interfere with productive FcαRI signaling, by inhibiting both SIgA-induced neutrophil chemotaxis and respiratory burst. Indeed, EsiB hampers SIgA-mediated signaling events by reducing the phosphorylation status of key signal-transducer cytosolic proteins, including mitogen-activated kinases. We propose that the interference with such immune events could contribute to the capacity of the bacterium to avoid clearance by neutrophils, as well as reducing the recruitment of immune cells to the infection site.

Importance: Pathogenic Escherichia coli infections have recently been exacerbated by increasing antibiotic resistance and the number of recurrent contagions. Attempts to develop preventive strategies against E. coli have not been successful, mainly due to the large antigenic and genetic variability of virulence factors, but also due to the complexity of the mechanisms used by the pathogen to evade the immune system. In this work, we elucidated the function of a recently discovered protective antigen, named EsiB, and described its capacity to interact with secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) and impair effector functions. This work unravels a novel strategy used by E. coli to subvert the host immune response and avoid neutrophil-dependent clearance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mBio.00206-13DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3735183PMC
July 2013

Protective efficacy induced by recombinant Clostridium difficile toxin fragments.

Infect Immun 2013 Aug 28;81(8):2851-60. Epub 2013 May 28.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics SRL, Siena, Italy.

Clostridium difficile is a spore-forming bacterium that can reside in animals and humans. C. difficile infection causes a variety of clinical symptoms, ranging from diarrhea to fulminant colitis. Disease is mediated by TcdA and TcdB, two large enterotoxins released by C. difficile during colonization of the gut. In this study, we evaluated the ability of recombinant toxin fragments to induce neutralizing antibodies in mice. The protective efficacies of the most promising candidates were then evaluated in a hamster model of disease. While limited protection was observed with some combinations, coadministration of a cell binding domain fragment of TcdA (TcdA-B1) and the glucosyltransferase moiety of TcdB (TcdB-GT) induced systemic IgGs which neutralized both toxins and protected vaccinated animals from death following challenge with two strains of C. difficile. Further characterization revealed that despite high concentrations of toxin in the gut lumens of vaccinated animals during the acute phase of the disease, pathological damage was minimized. Assessment of gut contents revealed the presence of TcdA and TcdB antibodies, suggesting that systemic vaccination with this pair of recombinant polypeptides can limit the disease caused by toxin production during C. difficile infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/IAI.01341-12DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3719595PMC
August 2013

Adaptive response of Group B streptococcus to high glucose conditions: new insights on the CovRS regulation network.

PLoS One 2013 9;8(4):e61294. Epub 2013 Apr 9.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Siena, Italy.

Although the contribution of carbohydrate catabolism to bacterial colonization and infection is well recognized, the transcriptional changes during these processes are still unknown. In this study, we have performed comparative global gene expression analysis of GBS in sugar-free versus high glucose milieu. The analysis revealed a differential expression of genes involved in metabolism, transport and host-pathogen interaction. Many of them appeared to be among the genes previously reported to be controlled by the CovRS two-component system. Indeed, the transcription profile of a ΔcovRS strain grown in high-glucose conditions was profoundly affected. In particular, of the total genes described to be regulated by glucose, ∼27% were under CovRS control with a functional role in protein synthesis, transport, energy metabolism and regulation. Among the CovRS dependent genes, we found bibA, a recently characterized adhesin involved in bacterial serum resistance and here reported to be down-regulated by glucose. ChIP analysis revealed that in the presence of glucose, CovR binds bibA promoter in vivo, suggesting that CovR may act as a negative regulator or a repressor. We also demonstrated that, as for other target promoters, chemical phosphorylation of CovR in aspartic acid increases its affinity for the bibA promoter region. The data reported in this study contribute to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms modulating the adaptation of GBS to glucose.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0061294PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3621830PMC
October 2013

CbpA: a novel surface exposed adhesin of Clostridium difficile targeting human collagen.

Cell Microbiol 2013 Oct 11;15(10):1674-87. Epub 2013 Apr 11.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Srl, Siena, Italy.

Clostridium difficile is the leading cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and pseudomembranous colitis. While the role of toxins in pathogenesis has been extensively described, the contribution of surface determinants to intestinal colonization is still poorly understood. We focused our study on a novel member of the MSCRAMM family, named CbpA (Collagen binding protein A), for its adhesive properties towards collagen. We demonstrate that CbpA, which carries an LPXTG-like cell wall anchoring domain, is expressed on the bacterial surface of C. difficile and that the recombinant protein binds at high affinity to collagens I and V (apparent Kd in the order of 10(-9 ) M). These findings were validated by confocal microscopy studies showing the colocalization of the protein with type I and V collagen fibres produced by human fibroblasts and mouse intestinal tissues. However, the collagen binding activity of the wild-type C. difficile 630 strain was indistinguishable to the cbpA knock-out strain. To overcome this apparent clostridial adherence redundancy, we engineered a Lactococcus lactis strain for the heterologous expression of CbpA. When exposed on the surface of L. lactis, CbpA significantly enhances the ability of the bacterium to interact with collagen and to adhere to ECM-producing cells. The binding activity of L. lactis-CbpA strain was prevented by an antiserum raised against CbpA, demonstrating the specificity of the interaction. These results suggest that CbpA is a newsurface-exposed adhesin contributing to the C. difficile interaction with the host.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cmi.12139DOI Listing
October 2013

The fimbrial protein FlfA from Gallibacterium anatis is a virulence factor and vaccine candidate.

Infect Immun 2013 Jun 18;81(6):1964-73. Epub 2013 Mar 18.

Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg C, Denmark.

The Gram-negative bacterium Gallibacterium anatis is a major cause of salpingitis and peritonitis in egg-laying chickens, leading to decreased egg production worldwide. Widespread multidrug resistance largely prevents treatment of this organism using traditional antimicrobial agents, while antigenic diversity hampers disease prevention by classical vaccines. Thus, insight into its pathogenesis and knowledge about important virulence factors is urgently required. A key event during the colonization and invasion of mucosal surfaces is adherence, and recently, at least three F17-like fimbrial gene clusters were identified in the genomes of several G. anatis strains. The objective of this study was to characterize the putative F17-like fimbrial subunit protein FlfA from G. anatis 12656-12 and determine its importance for virulence. In vitro expression and surface exposure of FlfA was demonstrated by flow cytometry and immunofluorescence microscopy. The predicted function of FlfA as a fimbrial subunit protein was confirmed by immunogold electron microscopy. An flfA deletion mutant (ΔflfA) was generated in G. anatis 12656-12, and importantly, this mutant was significantly attenuated in the natural chicken host. Furthermore, protection against G. anatis 12656-12 could be induced by immunizing chickens with recombinant FlfA. Finally, in vitro expression of FlfA homologs was observed in a genetically diverse set of G. anatis strains, suggesting the potential of FlfA as a serotype-independent vaccine candidate This is the first study describing a fimbrial subunit protein of G. anatis with a clear potential as a vaccine antigen.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/IAI.00059-13DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3676021PMC
June 2013

Exogenous sialic acid transport contributes to group B streptococcus infection of mucosal surfaces.

J Infect Dis 2012 Sep 24;206(6):924-31. Epub 2012 Jul 24.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Srl, Siena, Italy.

By sequence analysis of available group B streptococcus (GBS) genomes, we discovered a conserved putative operon involved in the catabolism of sialic acid, containing a tripartite transporter formed by two integral membrane components and a sugar-binding unit, named SAL0039. Expression analysis in the presence of different substrates revealed that SAL0039 was specifically upregulated by the presence of sialic acid and downregulated when bacteria were grown in human blood or in the presence of a high concentration of glucose. The role of SAL0039 in sugar transport was supported by the inability of the sal0039 deletion mutant strain to import exogenous sialic acid and to grow in semidefined medium supplemented with this sugar. Furthermore, in vivo evidence showed that the presence of exogenous sialic acid significantly increased the capacity of GBS to infect mice at the mucosal level. These findings suggest that transport of sialic acid may also contribute to GBS infections.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jis451DOI Listing
September 2012