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Pubmed ID :15249686
Publication Date : 2004/07/21

Unique modifications with phosphocholine and phosphoethanolamine define alternate antigenic forms of Neisseria gonorrhoeae type IV pili.


Several major bacterial pathogens and related commensal species colonizing the human mucosa express phosphocholine (PC) at their cell surfaces. PC appears to impact host-microbe biology by serving as a ligand for both C-reactive protein and the receptor for platelet-activating factor. Type IV pili of Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Ng) and Neisseria meningitidis, filamentous protein structures critical to the colonization of their human hosts, are known to react variably with monoclonal antibodies recognizing a PC epitope. However, the structural basis for this reactivity has remained elusive. To address this matter, we exploited the finding that the PilE pilin subunit in Ng mutants lacking the PilV protein acquired the PC epitope independent of changes in pilin primary structure. Specifically, we show by using mass spectrometry that PilE derived from the pilV background is composed of a mixture of subunits bearing O-linked forms of either phosphoethanolamine (PE) or PC at the same residue, whereas the wild-type background carries only PE at that same site. Therefore, PilV can influence pilin structure and antigenicity by modulating the incorporation of these alternative modifications. The disaccharide covalently linked to Ng pilin was also characterized because it is present on the same peptides bearing the PE and PC modifications and, contrary to previous reports, was found to be linked by means of 2,4-diacetamido-2,4,6-trideoxyhexose. Taken together, these findings provide new insights into Ng type IV pilus structure and antigenicity and resolve long-standing issues regarding the nature of both the PC epitope and the pilin glycan.

Authors : Hegge Finn Terje , Hitchen Paul G , Aas Finn Erik , Kristiansen Heidi , Løvold Cecilia , Egge-Jacobsen Wolfgang , Panico Maria , Leong Weng Yee , Bull Victoria , Virji Mumtaz , Morris Howard R , Dell Anne , Koomey Michael ,

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