Publications by authors named "Nathalie Norais"

50 Publications

Synergic complement-mediated bactericidal activity of monoclonal antibodies with distinct specificity.

FASEB J 2020 08 17;34(8):10329-10341. Epub 2020 Jun 17.

GSK, Siena, Italy.

The classical complement pathway is triggered when antigen-bound immunoglobulins bind to C1q through their Fc region. While C1q binds to a single Fc with low affinity, a higher avidity stable binding of two or more of C1q globular heads initiates the downstream reactions of the complement cascade ultimately resulting in bacteriolysis. Synergistic bactericidal activity has been demonstrated when monoclonal antibodies recognize nonoverlapping epitopes of the same antigen. The aim of the present work was to investigate the synergistic effect between antibodies directed toward different antigens. To this purpose, we investigated the bactericidal activity induced by combinations of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) raised against factor H-binding protein (fHbp) and Neisserial Heparin-Binding Antigen (NHBA), two major antigens included in Bexsero, the vaccine against Meningococcus B, for prevention from this devastating disease in infants and adolescents. Collectively, our results show that mAbs recognizing different antigens can synergistically activate complement even when each single Mab is not bactericidal, reinforcing the evidence that cooperative immunity induced by antigen combinations can represent a remarkable added value of multicomponent vaccines. Our study also shows that the synergistic effect of antibodies is modulated by the nature of the respective epitopes, as well as by the antigen density on the bacterial cell surface.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.201902795RDOI Listing
August 2020

The Streptococcus agalactiae complement interfering protein combines multiple complement-inhibitory mechanisms by interacting with both C4 and C3 ligands.

FASEB J 2019 03 19;33(3):4448-4457. Epub 2018 Dec 19.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Siena, Italy; and.

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) colonizes the human lower intestinal and genital tracts and constitutes a major threat to neonates from pregnant carrier mothers and to adults with underlying morbidity. The pathogen expresses cell-surface virulence factors that enable cell adhesion and penetration and that counteract innate and adaptive immune responses. Among these, the complement interfering protein (CIP) was recently described for its capacity to interact with the human C4b ligand and to interfere with the classical- and lectin-complement pathways. In the present study, we provide evidence that CIP can also interact with C3, C3b, and C3d. Immunoassay-based competition experiments showed that binding of CIP to C3d interferes with the interaction between C3d and the complement receptor 2/cluster of differentiation 21 (CR2/CD21) receptor on B cells. By B-cell intracellular signaling assays, CIP was confirmed to down-regulate CR2/CD21-dependent B-cell activation. The CIP domain involved in C3d binding was mapped via hydrogen deuterium exchange-mass spectrometry. The data obtained reveal a new role for this GBS polypeptide at the interface between the innate and adaptive immune responses, adding a new member to the growing list of virulence factors secreted by gram-positive pathogens that incorporate multiple immunomodulatory functions.-Giussani, S., Pietrocola, G., Donnarumma, D., Norais, N., Speziale, P., Fabbrini, M., Margarit, I. The Streptococcus agalactiae complement interfering protein combines multiple complement-inhibitory mechanisms by interacting with both C4 and C3 ligands.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.201801991RDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6404586PMC
March 2019

Generation and characterization of a bivalent protein boost for future clinical trials: HIV-1 subtypes CR01_AE and B gp120 antigens with a potent adjuvant.

PLoS One 2018 26;13(4):e0194266. Epub 2018 Apr 26.

GSK, Rockville, MD, United States of America.

The RV144 Phase III clinical trial with ALVAC-HIV prime and AIDSVAX B/E subtypes CRF01_AE (A244) and B (MN) gp120 boost vaccine regime in Thailand provided a foundation for the future development of improved vaccine strategies that may afford protection against the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). Results from this trial showed that immune responses directed against specific regions V1V2 of the viral envelope (Env) glycoprotein gp120 of HIV-1, were inversely correlated to the risk of HIV-1 infection. Due to the low production of gp120 proteins in CHO cells (2-20 mg/L), cleavage sites in V1V2 loops (A244) and V3 loop (MN) causing heterogeneous antigen products, it was an urgent need to generate CHO cells harboring A244 gp120 with high production yields and an additional, homogenous and uncleaved subtype B gp120 protein to replace MN used in RV144 for the future clinical trials. Here we describe the generation of Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cell lines stably expressing vaccine HIV-1 Env antigens for these purposes: one expressing an HIV-1 subtype CRF01_AE A244 Env gp120 protein (A244.AE) and one expressing an HIV-1 subtype B 6240 Env gp120 protein (6240.B) suitable for possible future manufacturing of Phase I clinical trial materials with cell culture expression levels of over 100 mg/L. The antigenic profiles of the molecules were elucidated by comprehensive approaches including analysis with a panel of well-characterized monoclonal antibodies recognizing critical epitopes using Biacore and ELISA, and glycosylation analysis by mass spectrometry, which confirmed previously identified glycosylation sites and revealed unknown sites of O-linked and N-linked glycosylations at non-consensus motifs. Overall, the vaccines given with MF59 adjuvant induced higher and more rapid antibody (Ab) responses as well as higher Ab avidity than groups given with aluminum hydroxide. Also, bivalent proteins (A244.AE and 6240.B) formulated with MF59 elicited distinct V2-specific Abs to the epitope previously shown to correlate with decreased risk of HIV-1 infection in the RV144 trial. All together, these results provide critical information allowing the consideration of these candidate gp120 proteins for future clinical evaluations in combination with a potent adjuvant.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0194266PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5919662PMC
July 2018

Native State Organization of Outer Membrane Porins Unraveled by HDx-MS.

J Proteome Res 2018 05 17;17(5):1794-1800. Epub 2018 Apr 17.

GSK , Via Fiorentina 1 , 53100 Siena , Italy.

Hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDx) associated with mass spectrometry (MS) is emerging as a powerful tool to provide conformational information about membrane proteins. Unfortunately, as for X-ray diffraction and NMR, HDx performed on reconstituted in vitro systems might not always reflect the in vivo environment. Outer-membrane vesicles naturally released by Escherichia coli were used to carry out analysis of native OmpF through HDx-MS. A new protocol compatible with HDx analysis that avoids hindrance from the lipid contents was setup. The extent of deuterium incorporation was in good agreement with the X-ray diffraction data of OmpF as the buried β-barrels incorporated a low amount of deuterium, whereas the internal loop L3 and the external loops incorporated a higher amount of deuterium. Moreover, the kinetics of incorporation clearly highlights that peptides segregate well in two distinct groups based exclusively on a trimeric organization of OmpF in the membrane: peptides presenting fast kinetics of labeling are facing the complex surrounding environment, whereas those presenting slow kinetics are located in the buried core of the trimer. The data show that HDx-MS applied to a complex biological system is able to reveal solvent accessibility and spatial arrangement of an integral outer-membrane protein complex.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jproteome.7b00830DOI Listing
May 2018

Outer Membrane Vesicles (OMV)-based and Proteomics-driven Antigen Selection Identifies Novel Factors Contributing to Adhesion to Epithelial Cells.

Mol Cell Proteomics 2018 02 4;17(2):205-215. Epub 2017 Dec 4.

From the ‡GSK Vaccines, Siena, Italy

Despite high vaccination coverage world-wide, whooping cough, a highly contagious disease caused by is recently increasing in occurrence suggesting that novel vaccine formulations targeted at the prevention of colonization and transmission should be investigated. To identify new candidates for inclusion in the acellular formulation, we used spontaneously released outer membrane vesicles (OMV) as a potential source of key adhesins. The enrichment of Bvg+ OMV with adhesins and the ability of anti-OMV serum to inhibit the adhesion of to lung epithelial cells were demonstrated. We employed a proteomic approach to identify the differentially expressed proteins in OMV purified from bacteria in the Bvg+ and Bvg- virulence phases, thus comparing the outer membrane protein pattern of this pathogen in its virulent or avirulent state. Six of the most abundant outer membrane proteins were selected as candidates to be evaluated for their adhesive properties and vaccine potential. We generated strains singularly expressing the selected proteins and assessed their ability to adhere to lung epithelial cells Four out of the selected proteins conferred adhesive ability to Three of the candidates were specifically detected by anti-OMV mouse serum suggesting that these proteins are immunogenic antigens able to elicit an antibody response when displayed on the OMV. Anti-OMV serum was able to inhibit only BrkA-expressing adhesion to lung epithelial cells. Finally, stand-alone immunization of mice with recombinant BrkA resulted in significant protection against infection of the lower respiratory tract after challenge with Taken together, these data support the inclusion of BrkA and possibly further adhesins to the current acellular pertussis vaccines to improve the impact of vaccination on the bacterial clearance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1074/mcp.RA117.000045DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5795387PMC
February 2018

Structural basis for potent antibody-mediated neutralization of human cytomegalovirus.

Sci Immunol 2017 Jun;2(12)

GSK Vaccines, 14200 Shady Grove Road, Rockville, MD 20850, USA.

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the leading viral cause of birth defects and organ transplant rejection. The HCMV gH/gL/UL128/UL130/UL131A complex (Pentamer) is the main target of humoral responses and thus a key vaccine candidate. We report two structures of Pentamer bound to human neutralizing antibodies, 8I21 and 9I6, at 3.0 and 5.9 Å resolution, respectively. The HCMV gH/gL architecture is similar to that of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) except for amino-terminal extensions on both subunits. The extension of gL forms a subdomain composed of a three-helix bundle and a β hairpin that acts as a docking site for UL128/UL130/UL131A. Structural analysis reveals that Pentamer is a flexible molecule, and suggests sites for engineering stabilizing mutations. We also identify immunogenic surfaces important for cellular interactions by epitope mapping and functional assays. These results can guide the development of effective vaccines and immunotherapeutics against HCMV.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciimmunol.aan1457DOI Listing
June 2017

Surface and Exoproteomes of Gram-Positive Pathogens for Vaccine Discovery.

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol 2017 ;404:309-337

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

Reverse vaccinology has been very successful in the discovery of vaccine candidates against many pathogenic bacteria by integrating genome and proteome mining. This great achievement was facilitated by the complementarity of the in silico prediction of antigens and the empirical data on protein localization, expression, and immunogenicity obtained through different techniques based on electrophoresis, immunoblotting and mass spectrometry. An iterative process between information provided by DNA sequence analysis and proteomic data has been established leading to precise antigen identification. In this review, we report how the identification of surface and exoproteomes of Gram-positive pathogens have contributed to the selection of vaccine candidates. Moreover, we show how quantitative mass spectrometry is now paving the way for identifying protective antigens that play key roles during infection and represent the most promising vaccine targets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/82_2016_50DOI Listing
August 2017

Epitope Mapping of a Monoclonal Antibody Directed against Neisserial Heparin Binding Antigen Using Next Generation Sequencing of Antigen-Specific Libraries.

PLoS One 2016 10;11(8):e0160702. Epub 2016 Aug 10.

Scylla Biotech Srl, Messina, Italy.

We explore here the potential of a newly described technology, which is named PROFILER and is based on next generation sequencing of gene-specific lambda phage-displayed libraries, to rapidly and accurately map monoclonal antibody (mAb) epitopes. For this purpose, we used a novel mAb (designated 31E10/E7) directed against Neisserial Heparin-Binding Antigen (NHBA), a component of the anti-group B meningococcus Bexsero® vaccine. An NHBA phage-displayed library was affinity-selected with mAb 31E10/E7, followed by massive sequencing of the inserts present in antibody-selected phage pools. Insert analysis identified an amino acid stretch (D91-A128) in the N-terminal domain, which was shared by all of the mAb-enriched fragments. Moreover, a recombinant fragment encompassing this sequence could recapitulate the immunoreactivity of the entire NHBA molecule against mAb 31E10/E7. These results were confirmed using a panel of overlapping recombinant fragments derived from the NHBA vaccine variant and a set of chemically synthetized peptides covering the 10 most frequent antigenic variants. Furthermore, hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass-spectrometry analysis of the NHBA-mAb 31E10/E7 complex was also compatible with mapping of the epitope to the D91-A128 region. Collectively, these results indicate that the PROFILER technology can reliably identify epitope-containing antigenic fragments and requires considerably less work, time and reagents than other epitope mapping methods.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0160702PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4980009PMC
August 2017

Phage display revisited: Epitope mapping of a monoclonal antibody directed against Neisseria meningitidis adhesin A using the PROFILER technology.

MAbs 2016 May-Jun;8(4):741-50. Epub 2016 Mar 10.

a Scylla Biotech Srl , Messina , Italy.

There is a strong need for rapid and reliable epitope mapping methods that can keep pace with the isolation of increasingly larger numbers of mAbs. We describe here the identification of a conformational epitope using Phage-based Representation OF ImmunoLigand Epitope Repertoire (PROFILER), a recently developed high-throughput method based on deep sequencing of antigen-specific lambda phage-displayed libraries. A novel bactericidal monoclonal antibody (mAb 9F11) raised against Neisseria meningitidis adhesin A (NadA), an important component of the Bexsero(®) anti-meningococcal vaccine, was used to evaluate the technique in comparison with other epitope mapping methods. The PROFILER technology readily identified NadA fragments that were capable of fully recapitulating the reactivity of the entire antigen against mAb 9F11. Further analysis of these fragments using mutagenesis and hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass-spectrometry allowed us to identify the binding site of mAb 9F11 (A250-D274) and an adjoining sequence (V275-H312) that was also required for the full functional reconstitution of the epitope. These data suggest that, by virtue of its ability to detect a great variety of immunoreactive antigen fragments in phage-displayed libraries, the PROFILER technology can rapidly and reliably identify epitope-containing regions and provide, in addition, useful clues for the functional characterization of conformational mAb epitopes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19420862.2016.1158371DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4966859PMC
November 2017

Expression of factor H binding protein in meningococcal strains can vary at least 15-fold and is genetically determined.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016 Mar 17;113(10):2714-9. Epub 2016 Feb 17.

GSK Vaccines, 53100 Siena, Italy

Factor H binding protein (fHbp) is a lipoprotein of Neisseria meningitidis important for the survival of the bacterium in human blood and a component of two recently licensed vaccines against serogroup B meningococcus (MenB). Based on 866 different amino acid sequences this protein is divided into three variants or two families. Quantification of the protein is done by immunoassays such as ELISA or FACS that are susceptible to the sequence variation and expression level of the protein. Here, selected reaction monitoring mass spectrometry was used for the absolute quantification of fHbp in a large panel of strains representative of the population diversity of MenB. The analysis revealed that the level of fHbp expression can vary at least 15-fold and that variant 1 strains express significantly more protein than variant 2 or variant 3 strains. The susceptibility to complement-mediated killing correlated with the amount of protein expressed by the different meningococcal strains and this could be predicted from the nucleotide sequence of the promoter region. Finally, the absolute quantification allowed the calculation of the number of fHbp molecules per cell and to propose a mechanistic model of the engagement of C1q, the recognition component of the complement cascade.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1521142113DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791009PMC
March 2016

The role of structural proteomics in vaccine development: recent advances and future prospects.

Expert Rev Proteomics 2016 ;13(1):55-68

a GSK Vaccines , Siena , Italy.

Vaccines are the most effective way to fight infectious diseases saving countless lives since their introduction. Their evolution during the last century made use of the best technologies available to continuously increase their efficacy and safety. Mass spectrometry (MS) and proteomics are already playing a central role in the identification and characterization of novel antigens. Over the last years, we have been witnessing the emergence of structural proteomics in vaccinology, as a major tool for vaccine candidate discovery, antigen design and life cycle management of existing products. In this review, we describe the MS techniques associated to structural proteomics and we illustrate the contribution of structural proteomics to vaccinology discussing potential applications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1586/14789450.2016.1121113DOI Listing
October 2016

Antigenic Characterization of the HCMV gH/gL/gO and Pentamer Cell Entry Complexes Reveals Binding Sites for Potently Neutralizing Human Antibodies.

PLoS Pathog 2015 Oct 20;11(10):e1005230. Epub 2015 Oct 20.

Novartis Vaccines (a GSK company), Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America.

Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in transplant patients and in fetuses following congenital infection. The glycoprotein complexes gH/gL/gO and gH/gL/UL128/UL130/UL131A (Pentamer) are required for HCMV entry in fibroblasts and endothelial/epithelial cells, respectively, and are targeted by potently neutralizing antibodies in the infected host. Using purified soluble forms of gH/gL/gO and Pentamer as well as a panel of naturally elicited human monoclonal antibodies, we determined the location of key neutralizing epitopes on the gH/gL/gO and Pentamer surfaces. Mass Spectrometry (MS) coupled to Chemical Crosslinking or to Hydrogen Deuterium Exchange was used to define residues that are either in proximity or part of neutralizing epitopes on the glycoprotein complexes. We also determined the molecular architecture of the gH/gL/gO- and Pentamer-antibody complexes by Electron Microscopy (EM) and 3D reconstructions. The EM analysis revealed that the Pentamer specific neutralizing antibodies bind to two opposite surfaces of the complex, suggesting that they may neutralize infection by different mechanisms. Together, our data identify the location of neutralizing antibodies binding sites on the gH/gL/gO and Pentamer complexes and provide a framework for the development of antibodies and vaccines against HCMV.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1005230DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4617720PMC
October 2015

Exploiting chimeric human antibodies to characterize a protective epitope of Neisseria adhesin A, one of the Bexsero vaccine components.

FASEB J 2016 Jan 24;30(1):93-101. Epub 2015 Aug 24.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, GlaxoSmithKline, Siena, Italy

Neisseria adhesin A (NadA) is one of the antigens of Bexsero, the recently licensed multicomponent vaccine against serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis (MenB). NadA belongs to the class of oligomeric coiled-coil adhesins and is able to mediate adhesion and invasion of human epithelial cells. As a vaccine antigen, NadA has been shown to induce high levels of bactericidal antibodies; however, the domains important for protective response are still unknown. In order to further investigate its immunogenic properties, we have characterized the murine IgG1 mAb (6E3) that was able to recognize the 2 main antigenic variants of NadA on the surface of MenB strains. The epitope targeted by mAb 6E3 was mapped by hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry and shown to be located on the coiled-coil stalk region of NadA (aa 206-249). Although no serum bactericidal activity was observed for murine IgG1 mAb 6E3, functional activity was restored when using chimeric antibodies in which the variable regions of the murine mAb 6E3 were fused to human IgG3 constant regions, thus confirming the protective nature of the mAb 6E3 epitope. The use of chimeric antibody molecules will enable future investigations of complement-mediated antibody functionality independently of the Fc-mediated differences in complement activation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.15-273813DOI Listing
January 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

Vaccine composition formulated with a novel TLR7-dependent adjuvant induces high and broad protection against Staphylococcus aureus.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Mar 9;112(12):3680-5. Epub 2015 Mar 9.

Novartis Vaccines Research Center, 53100 Siena, Italy;

Both active and passive immunization strategies against Staphylococcus aureus have thus far failed to show efficacy in humans. With the attempt to develop an effective S. aureus vaccine, we selected five conserved antigens known to have different roles in S. aureus pathogenesis. They include the secreted factors α-hemolysin (Hla), ess extracellular A (EsxA), and ess extracellular B (EsxB) and the two surface proteins ferric hydroxamate uptake D2 and conserved staphylococcal antigen 1A. The combined vaccine antigens formulated with aluminum hydroxide induced antibodies with opsonophagocytic and functional activities and provided consistent protection in four mouse models when challenged with a panel of epidemiologically relevant S. aureus strains. The importance of antibodies in protection was demonstrated by passive transfer experiments. Furthermore, when formulated with a toll-like receptor 7-dependent (TLR7) agonist recently designed and developed in our laboratories (SMIP.7-10) adsorbed to alum, the five antigens provided close to 100% protection against four different staphylococcal strains. The new formulation induced not only high antibody titers but also a Th1 skewed immune response as judged by antibody isotype and cytokine profiles. In addition, low frequencies of IL-17-secreting T cells were also observed. Altogether, our data demonstrate that the rational selection of mixtures of conserved antigens combined with Th1/Th17 adjuvants can lead to promising vaccine formulations against S. aureus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1424924112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378396PMC
March 2015

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

Neisseria meningitis GNA1030 is a ubiquinone-8 binding protein.

FASEB J 2015 Jun 20;29(6):2260-7. Epub 2015 Feb 20.

Novartis Vaccines, Siena, Italy

Bexsero, a new vaccine against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B (MenB), is composed of 3 main recombinant proteins and an outer membrane vesicle component. One of the main bactericidal antigens, neisseria heparin binding antigen (NHBA), is present as a fusion protein with the accessory protein genome-derived neisserial antigen (GNA) 1030 to further increase its immunogenicity. The gene encoding for GNA1030 is present and highly conserved in all Neisseria strains, and although orthologs are present in numerous species, its biologic function is unknown. Native mass spectrometry was used to demonstrate that GNA1030 forms a homodimer associated with 2 molecules of ubiquinone-8 (Ub8), a cofactor mainly involved in the electron transport chain and with antioxidant properties. Disc diffusion assays on the wild-type and knockout mutant of GNA1030, in the presence of various compounds, suggested that GNA1030 is not involved in oxidative stress or electron chain transport per se, although it contributes to constitutive refilling of the inner membrane with Ub8. These studies shed light on an accessory protein present in Bexsero and reveal functional insights into the family of related proteins. On the basis of our findings, we propose to name the protein neisseria ubiquinone binding protein (NUbp).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.14-263954DOI Listing
June 2015

Structural and biochemical studies of HCMV gH/gL/gO and Pentamer reveal mutually exclusive cell entry complexes.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Feb 26;112(6):1767-72. Epub 2015 Jan 26.

Novartis Vaccines, Cambridge, MA 02139;

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in transplant patients and the leading viral cause of birth defects after congenital infection. The glycoprotein complexes gH/gL/gO and gH/gL/UL128/UL130/UL131A (Pentamer) are key targets of the human humoral response against HCMV and are required for HCMV entry into fibroblasts and endothelial/epithelial cells, respectively. We expressed and characterized soluble forms of gH/gL, gH/gL/gO, and Pentamer. Mass spectrometry and mutagenesis analysis revealed that gL-Cys144 forms disulfide bonds with gO-Cys351 in gH/gL/gO and with UL128-Cys162 in the Pentamer. Notably, Pentamer harboring the UL128-Cys162Ser/gL-Cys144Ser mutations had impaired syncytia formation and reduced interference of HCMV entry into epithelial cells. Electron microscopy analysis showed that HCMV gH/gL resembles HSV gH/gL and that gO and UL128/UL130/UL131A bind to the same site at the gH/gL N terminus. These data are consistent with gH/gL/gO and Pentamer forming mutually exclusive cell entry complexes and reveal the overall location of gH/gL-, gH/gL/gO-, and Pentamer-specific neutralizing antibody binding sites. Our results provide, to our knowledge, the first structural view of gH/gL/gO and Pentamer supporting the development of vaccines and antibody therapeutics against HCMV.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1424818112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4330774PMC
February 2015

Structure of the meningococcal vaccine antigen NadA and epitope mapping of a bactericidal antibody.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014 Dec 17;111(48):17128-33. Epub 2014 Nov 17.

Novartis Vaccines, 53100 Siena, Italy; and.

Serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis (MenB) is a major cause of severe sepsis and invasive meningococcal disease, which is associated with 5-15% mortality and devastating long-term sequelae. Neisserial adhesin A (NadA), a trimeric autotransporter adhesin (TAA) that acts in adhesion to and invasion of host epithelial cells, is one of the three antigens discovered by genome mining that are part of the MenB vaccine that recently was approved by the European Medicines Agency. Here we present the crystal structure of NadA variant 5 at 2 Å resolution and transmission electron microscopy data for NadA variant 3 that is present in the vaccine. The two variants show similar overall topology with a novel TAA fold predominantly composed of trimeric coiled-coils with three protruding wing-like structures that create an unusual N-terminal head domain. Detailed mapping of the binding site of a bactericidal antibody by hydrogen/deuterium exchange MS shows that a protective conformational epitope is located in the head of NadA. These results provide information that is important for elucidating the biological function and vaccine efficacy of NadA.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1419686111DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4260552PMC
December 2014

Multidisciplinary analysis of a nontoxigenic Clostridium difficile strain with stable resistance to metronidazole.

Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2014 Aug 9;58(8):4957-60. Epub 2014 Jun 9.

Department of Infectious, Parasitic, and Immune-Mediated Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Stable resistance to metronidazole in a nontoxigenic Clostridium difficile strain was investigated at both the genomic and proteomic levels. Alterations in the metabolic pathway involving the pyruvate-ferredoxin oxidoreductase were found, suggesting that reduction of metronidazole, required for its activity, may be less efficient in this strain. Proteomic studies also showed a cellular response to oxidative stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AAC.02350-14DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4135993PMC
August 2014

Identification of glycosylated regions in pneumococcal PspA conjugated to serotype 6B capsular polysaccharide.

Glycoconj J 2014 Apr;31(3):259-69

Conjugate vaccines are being widely used since their introduction. Nowadays the interest in these vaccines is still growing and new antigens and conjugate chemistry are being studied and developed. Pneumococcal surface protein A (PspA) is one of the most studied pneumococcal antigens and is an important vaccine candidate. One approach to broaden the conjugate vaccine coverage could be the conjugation of the polysaccharide to a pneumococcal protein such as PspA. Previous results have shown that conjugated recombinant fragment of PspA (rPspA) not only maintained but also in some conjugates improved the induction of protective antibodies raised against the protein carrier. We describe here a characterization study to identify the domains of Streptococcus pneumoniae recombinant PspA (rPspA), from family 1 clade 1 and family 2 clade 3, involved in the conjugation with serotype 6B capsular polysaccharide.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10719-014-9519-9DOI Listing
April 2014

Quantification by LC-MS(E) of outer membrane vesicle proteins of the Bexsero® vaccine.

Vaccine 2014 Mar 23;32(11):1273-9. Epub 2014 Jan 23.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Via Fiorentina, 1 53100 Siena, Italy. Electronic address:

Meningococcal disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Its epidemiology is currently dominated by five capsular serogroups (A, B, C, W, and Y). While effective vaccines already exist for serogroups A, C, W and Y, except for under clonal outbreaks, no vaccine was available against serogroup B. Recently, a four component vaccine, Bexsero(®), designed to prevent infection caused by this serogroup, has been approved in Europe and other Countries for use in individuals from two months of age and older. The active components of this vaccine are three recombinant proteins identified by reverse vaccinology combined with detergent extracted outer membrane vesicles (DOMV) prepared from a New Zealand epidemic strain. Considering their intrinsic complexity, we performed additional characterization of DOMVs on top of the standard quality control testing carried out for batch release. We applied the Hi3 label-free LC-MS(E) methodology to qualitatively and quantitatively characterize the DOMV protein content. We first, successfully investigated the robustness and the accuracy of the methodology for the DOMV characterization and we then applied it to compare six DOMV production lots. Around 100 proteins were quantified from each preparation. When classified according to their predicted cellular localization, about 90% of the total protein amount belongs consistently to the outer membrane compartment. Using nonparametric hypothesis testing and complementary log-log linear regression, the quantifications of a subset of 21 proteins common to all lots and including approximately 90% (85-92%) of the total protein amount quantified in any DOMV lot were found consistent across lots. The relevance of these results is two-fold, showing that the Hi3 quantification methodology is robust for a broad range of proteins and indicating that the manufacturing process currently used for the production of the Bexsero(®) DOMV components is highly reproducible and consistent.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.01.011DOI Listing
March 2014

Two cross-reactive monoclonal antibodies recognize overlapping epitopes on Neisseria meningitidis factor H binding protein but have different functional properties.

FASEB J 2014 Apr 26;28(4):1644-53. Epub 2013 Dec 26.

1Research Center, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Srl, Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

Factor H binding protein (fHbp) is one of the main antigens of the 4-component meningococcus B (4CMenB) multicomponent vaccine against disease caused by serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis (MenB). fHbp binds the complement down-regulating protein human factor H (hfH), thus resulting in immune evasion. fHbp exists in 3 variant groups with limited cross-protective responses. Previous studies have described the generation of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) targeting variant-specific regions of fHbp. Here we report for the first time the functional characterization of two mAbs that recognize a wide panel of fHbp variants and subvariants on the MenB surface and that are able to inhibit fHbp binding to hfH. The antigenic regions targeted by the two mAbs were accurately mapped by hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX-MS), revealing partially overlapping epitopes on the N terminus of fHbp. Furthermore, while none of the mAbs had bactericidal activity on its own, a synergistic effect was observed for each of them when tested by the human complement serum bactericidal activity (hSBA) assay in combination with a second nonbactericidal mAb. The bases underlying fHbp variant cross-reactivity, as well as inhibition of hfH binding and cooperativity effect observed for the two mAbs, are discussed in light of the mapped epitopes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.13-239012DOI Listing
April 2014

Identification of a novel zinc metalloprotease through a global analysis of Clostridium difficile extracellular proteins.

PLoS One 2013 26;8(11):e81306. Epub 2013 Nov 26.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Siena, Italy.

Clostridium difficile is a major cause of infectious diarrhea worldwide. Although the cell surface proteins are recognized to be important in clostridial pathogenesis, biological functions of only a few are known. Also, apart from the toxins, proteins exported by C. difficile into the extracellular milieu have been poorly studied. In order to identify novel extracellular factors of C. difficile, we analyzed bacterial culture supernatants prepared from clinical isolates, 630 and R20291, using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. The majority of the proteins identified were non-canonical extracellular proteins. These could be largely classified into proteins associated to the cell wall (including CWPs and extracellular hydrolases), transporters and flagellar proteins. Seven unknown hypothetical proteins were also identified. One of these proteins, CD630_28300, shared sequence similarity with the anthrax lethal factor, a known zinc metallopeptidase. We demonstrated that CD630_28300 (named Zmp1) binds zinc and is able to cleave fibronectin and fibrinogen in vitro in a zinc-dependent manner. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we identified residues important in zinc binding and enzymatic activity. Furthermore, we demonstrated that Zmp1 destabilizes the fibronectin network produced by human fibroblasts. Thus, by analyzing the exoproteome of C. difficile, we identified a novel extracellular metalloprotease that may be important in key steps of clostridial pathogenesis.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081306PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3841139PMC
October 2014

Recombinant outer membrane vesicles carrying Chlamydia muridarum HtrA induce antibodies that neutralize chlamydial infection in vitro.

J Extracell Vesicles 2013 6;2. Epub 2013 May 6.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Siena, Italy.

Background: Outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) are spheroid particles released by all Gram-negative bacteria as a result of the budding out of the outer membrane. Since they carry many of the bacterial surface-associated proteins and feature a potent built-in adjuvanticity, OMVs are being utilized as vaccines, some of which commercially available. Recently, methods for manipulating the protein content of OMVs have been proposed, thus making OMVs a promising platform for recombinant, multivalent vaccines development.

Methods: Chlamydia muridarum DO serine protease HtrA, an antigen which stimulates strong humoral and cellular responses in mice and humans, was expressed in Escherichia coli fused to the OmpA leader sequence to deliver it to the OMV compartment. Purified OMVs carrying HtrA (CM rHtrA-OMV) were analyzed for their capacity to induce antibodies capable of neutralizing Chlamydia infection of LLC-MK2 cells in vitro.

Results: CM rHtrA-OMV immunization in mice induced antibodies that neutralize Chlamydial invasion as judged by an in vitro infectivity assay. This was remarkably different from what observed with an enzymatically functional recombinant HtrA expressed in, and purified from the E. coli cytoplasm (CM rHtrA). The difference in functionality between anti-CM rHtrA and anti-CM rHtrA-OMV antibodies was associated to a different pattern of protein epitopes recognition. The epitope recognition profile of anti-CM HtrA-OMV antibodies was similar to that induced in mice during Chlamydial infection.

Conclusions: When expressed in OMVs HtrA appears to assume a conformation similar to the native one and this results in the elicitation of functional immune responses. These data further support the potentiality of OMVs as vaccine platform.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/jev.v2i0.20181DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3760637PMC
September 2013

Auto ADP-ribosylation of NarE, a Neisseria meningitidis ADP-ribosyltransferase, regulates its catalytic activities.

FASEB J 2013 Dec 20;27(12):4723-30. Epub 2013 Aug 20.

1Centro Ricerche Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.

NarE is an arginine-specific mono-ADP-ribosyltransferase identified in Neisseria meningitidis that requires the presence of iron in a structured cluster for its enzymatic activities. In this study, we show that NarE can perform auto-ADP-ribosylation. This automodification occurred in a time- and NAD-concentration-dependent manner; was inhibited by novobiocin, an ADP-ribosyltransferase inhibitor; and did not occur when NarE was heat inactivated. No reduction in incorporation was evidenced in the presence of high concentrations of ATP, GTP, ADP-ribose, or nicotinamide, which inhibits NAD-glycohydrolase, impeding the formation of free ADP-ribose. Based on the electrophoretic profile of NarE on auto-ADP-ribosylation and on the results of mutagenesis and mass spectrometry analysis, the auto-ADP-ribosylation appeared to be restricted to the addition of a single ADP-ribose. Chemical stability experiments showed that the ADP-ribosyl linkage was sensitive to hydroxylamine, which breaks ADP-ribose-arginine bonds. Site-directed mutagenesis suggested that the auto-ADP-ribosylation site occurred preferentially on the R(7) residue, which is located in the region I of the ADP-ribosyltransferase family. After auto-ADP-ribosylation, NarE showed a reduction in ADP-ribosyltransferase activity, while NAD-glycohydrolase activity was increased. Overall, our findings provide evidence for a novel intramolecular mechanism used by NarE to regulate its enzymatic activities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.13-229955DOI Listing
December 2013

Group B Streptococcus pilus sortase regulation: a single mutation in the lid region induces pilin protein polymerization in vitro.

FASEB J 2013 Aug 30;27(8):3144-54. Epub 2013 Apr 30.

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

Gram-positive bacteria build pili on their cell surface via a class C sortase-catalyzed transpeptidation mechanism from pilin protein substrates. Despite the availability of several crystal structures, pilus-related C sortases remain poorly characterized to date, and their mechanisms of transpeptidation and regulation need to be further investigated. The available 3-dimensional structures of these enzymes reveal a typical sortase fold, except for the presence of a unique feature represented by an N-terminal highly flexible loop known as the "lid." This region interacts with the residues composing the catalytic triad and covers the active site, thus maintaining the enzyme in an autoinhibited state and preventing the accessibility to the substrate. It is believed that enzyme activation may occur only after lid displacement from the catalytic domain. In this work, we provide the first direct evidence of the regulatory role of the lid, demonstrating that it is possible to obtain in vitro an efficient polymerization of pilin subunits using an active C sortase lid mutant carrying a single residue mutation in the lid region. Moreover, biochemical analyses of this recombinant mutant reveal that the lid confers thermodynamic and proteolytic stability to the enzyme.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.13-227793DOI Listing
August 2013

Defining a protective epitope on factor H binding protein, a key meningococcal virulence factor and vaccine antigen.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2013 Feb 8;110(9):3304-9. Epub 2013 Feb 8.

Research Center, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics srl, 53100 Siena, Italy.

Mapping of epitopes recognized by functional monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) is essential for understanding the nature of immune responses and designing improved vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. In recent years, identification of B-cell epitopes targeted by neutralizing antibodies has facilitated the design of peptide-based vaccines against highly variable pathogens like HIV, respiratory syncytial virus, and Helicobacter pylori; however, none of these products has yet progressed into clinical stages. Linear epitopes identified by conventional mapping techniques only partially reflect the immunogenic properties of the epitope in its natural conformation, thus limiting the success of this approach. To investigate antigen-antibody interactions and assess the potential of the most common epitope mapping techniques, we generated a series of mAbs against factor H binding protein (fHbp), a key virulence factor and vaccine antigen of Neisseria meningitidis. The interaction of fHbp with the bactericidal mAb 12C1 was studied by various epitope mapping methods. Although a 12-residue epitope in the C terminus of fHbp was identified by both Peptide Scanning and Phage Display Library screening, other approaches, such as hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (MS) and X-ray crystallography, showed that mAb 12C1 occupies an area of ∼1,000 Å(2) on fHbp, including >20 fHbp residues distributed on both N- and C-terminal domains. Collectively, these data show that linear epitope mapping techniques provide useful but incomplete descriptions of B-cell epitopes, indicating that increased efforts to fully characterize antigen-antibody interfaces are required to understand and design effective immunogens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1222845110DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3587270PMC
February 2013

Transcriptional regulation of the nadA gene in Neisseria meningitidis impacts the prediction of coverage of a multicomponent meningococcal serogroup B vaccine.

Infect Immun 2013 Feb 10;81(2):560-9. Epub 2012 Dec 10.

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnotics, Research Center, Siena, Italy.

The NadA adhesin is a major component of 4CMenB, a novel vaccine to prevent meningococcus serogroup B (MenB) infection. Under in vitro growth conditions, nadA is repressed by the regulator NadR and poorly expressed, resulting in inefficient killing of MenB strains by anti-NadA antibodies. Interestingly, sera from children infected with strains that express low levels of NadA in laboratory growth nevertheless recognize the NadA antigen, suggesting that NadA expression during infection may be different from that observed in vitro. In a strain panel covering a range of NadA levels, repression was relieved through deleting nadR. All nadR knockout strains expressed high levels of NadA and were efficiently killed by sera from subjects immunized with 4CMenB. A selected MenB strain, NGP165, mismatched for other vaccine antigens, is not killed by sera from immunized infants when the strain is grown in vitro. However, in an in vivo passive protection model, the same sera effectively protected infant rats from bacteremia with NGP165. Furthermore, we identify a novel hydroxyphenylacetic acid (HPA) derivative, reported by others to be produced during inflammation, which induces expression of NadA in vitro, leading to efficient antibody-mediated killing. Finally, using bioluminescent reporters, nadA expression in the infant rat model was induced in vivo at 3 h postinfection. Our results suggest that during infectious disease, NadR repression is alleviated due to niche-specific signals, resulting in high levels of NadA expression from any nadA-positive (nadA(+)) strain and therefore efficient killing by anti-NadA antibodies elicited by the 4CMenB vaccine.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/IAI.01085-12DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3553804PMC
February 2013

Arginine-specific mono ADP-ribosylation in vitro of antimicrobial peptides by ADP-ribosylating toxins.

PLoS One 2012 7;7(8):e41417. Epub 2012 Aug 7.

Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics, Siena, Italy.

Among the several toxins used by pathogenic bacteria to target eukaryotic host cells, proteins that exert ADP-ribosylation activity represent a large and studied family of dangerous and potentially lethal toxins. These proteins alter cell physiology catalyzing the transfer of the ADP-ribose unit from NAD to cellular proteins involved in key metabolic pathways. In the present study, we tested the capability of four of these toxins, to ADP-ribosylate α- and β- defensins. Cholera toxin (CT) from Vibrio cholerae and heat labile enterotoxin (LT) from Escherichia coli both modified the human α-defensin (HNP-1) and β- defensin-1 (HBD1), as efficiently as the mammalian mono-ADP-ribosyltransferase-1. Pseudomonas aeruginosa exoenzyme S was inactive on both HNP-1 and HBD1. Neisseria meningitidis NarE poorly recognized HNP-1 as a substrate but it was completely inactive on HBD1. On the other hand, HNP-1 strongly influenced NarE inhibiting its transferase activity while enhancing auto-ADP-ribosylation. We conclude that only some arginine-specific ADP-ribosylating toxins recognize defensins as substrates in vitro. Modifications that alter the biological activities of antimicrobial peptides may be relevant for the innate immune response. In particular, ADP-ribosylation of antimicrobial peptides may represent a novel escape mechanism adopted by pathogens to facilitate colonization of host tissues.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0041417PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3413682PMC
January 2013