Neisseria adhesin A (NadA), involved in the adhesion and invasion of Neisseria meningitidis into host tissues, is one of the major components of Bexsero, a novel multicomponent vaccine licensed for protection against meningococcal serogroup B in Europe, Australia, and Canada. NadA has been identified in approximately 30% of clinical isolates and in a much lower proportion of carrier isolates. Three protein variants were originally identified in invasive meningococci and named NadA-1, NadA-2, and NadA-3, whereas most carrier isolates either lacked the gene or harbored a different variant, NadA-4. Further analysis of isolates belonging to the sequence type 213 (ST-213) clonal complex identified NadA-5, which was structurally similar to NadA-4, but more distantly related to NadA-1, -2, and -3. At the time of this writing, more than 89 distinct nadA allele sequences and 43 distinct peptides have been described. Here, we present a revised nomenclature system, taking into account the complete data set, which is compatible with previous classification schemes and is expandable. The main features of this new scheme include (i) the grouping of the previously named NadA-2 and NadA-3 variants into a single NadA-2/3 variant, (ii) the grouping of the previously assigned NadA-4 and NadA-5 variants into a single NadA-4/5 variant, (iii) the introduction of an additional variant (NadA-6), and (iv) the classification of the variants into two main groups, named groups I and II. To facilitate querying of the sequences and submission of new allele sequences, the nucleotide and amino acid sequences are available at http://pubmlst.org/neisseria/NadA/.
Serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) isolates currently account for approximately 90% of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in Greece with ST-162 clonal complex predominating. The potential of a multicomponent meningococcal B vaccine (4CMenB) recently licensed in Europe was investigated in order to find whether the aforementioned vaccine will cover the MenB strains circulating in Greece. A panel of 148 serogroup B invasive meningococcal strains was characterized by multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and PorA subtyping. Vaccine components were typed by sequencing for factor H-binding protein (fHbp), Neisserial Heparin Binding Antigen (NHBA) and Neisseria adhesin A (NadA). Their expression was explored by Meningococcal Antigen Typing System (MATS).
Neisseria meningitidis is an obligate human commensal that commonly colonizes the oropharyngeal mucosa. Carriage is age dependent and very common in young adults. The relationships between carriage and invasive disease are not completely understood. In this work, we performed a longitudinal carrier study in adolescents and young adults (173 subjects). Overall, 32 subjects (18.5%) had results that were positive for meningococcal carriage in at least one visit (average monthly carriage rate, 12.1%). Only five subjects tested positive at all four visits. All meningococcal isolates were characterized by molecular and serological techniques. Multilocus sequence typing, PorA typing, and sequencing of the 4CMenB vaccine antigens were used to assess strain diversity. The majority of positive subjects were colonized by capsule null (34.4%) and capsular group B strains (28.1%), accounting for 23.5% and 29.4% of the total number of isolates, respectively. The fHbp and nhba genes were present in all isolates, while the nadA gene was present in 5% of the isolates. The genetic variability of the 4CMenB vaccine antigens in this collection was relatively high compared with that of other disease-causing strain panels. Indications about the persistence of the carriage state were limited to the time span of the study. All strains isolated from the same subject were identical or cumulated minor changes over time. The expression levels and antigenicities of the 4CMenB vaccine antigens in each strain were analyzed by the meningococcal antigen typing system (MATS), which revealed that expression can change over time in the same individual. Future analysis of antigen variability and expression in carrier strains after the introduction of the MenB vaccine will allow for a definition of its impact on nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal carriage.
Surface-expressed protein antigens such as factor H-binding protein (fHbp), Neisserial adhesin A (NadA), Neisserial heparin-binding antigen (NHBA) and Porin protein A (PorA); all express sequence variability that can affect their function as protective immunogens when used in meningococcal serogroup B vaccines like the recently-approved 4CMenB (Bexsero(®)). We assessed the sequence variation of genes coding for these proteins and two additional proteins ("fusion partners" to fHbp and NHBA) in pathogenic isolates from a recent low incidence period (endemic situation; 2005-2006) in Norway. Findings among strains from this panel were contrasted to what was found among isolates from a historic outbreak (epidemic situation; 1985-1990). Multilocus sequence typing revealed 14 clonal complexes (cc) among the 66 endemic strains, while cc32 vastly predominated in the 38-strain epidemic panel. Serogroup B isolates accounted for 50/66 among endemic strains and 28/38 among epidemic strains. Potential strain-coverage ("sequence match") for the 4CMenB vaccine was identified among the majority (>70%) of the endemic serogroup B isolates and all of the epidemic serogroup B isolates evaluated. Further information about the degree of expression, surface availability and the true cross-reactivity for the vaccine antigens will be needed to fully characterize the clinical strain-coverage of 4CMenB in various geographic and epidemiological situations.
A novel multicomponent vaccine against meningococcal capsular group B (MenB) disease contains four major components: factor-H-binding protein, neisserial heparin binding antigen, neisserial adhesin A, and outer-membrane vesicles derived from the strain NZ98/254. Because the public health effect of the vaccine, 4CMenB (Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Siena, Italy), is unclear, we assessed the predicted strain coverage in Europe.
Studies of meningococcal evolution and genetic population structure, including the long-term stability of non-random associations between variants of surface proteins, are essential for vaccine development. We analyzed the sequence variability of factor H-binding protein (fHbp), Neisserial Heparin-Binding Antigen (NHBA) and Neisseria adhesin A (NadA), three major antigens in the multicomponent meningococcal serogroup B vaccine 4CMenB. A panel of invasive isolates collected in the Netherlands over a period of 50 years was used. To our knowledge, this strain collection covers the longest time period of any collection available worldwide. Long-term persistence of several antigen sub/variants and of non-overlapping antigen sub/variant combinations was observed. Our data suggest that certain antigen sub/variants including those used in 4CMenB are conserved over time and promoted by selection.
The sequence variability of protective antigens is a major challenge to the development of vaccines. For Neisseria meningitidis, the bacterial pathogen that causes meningitis, the amino acid sequence of the protective antigen factor H binding protein (fHBP) has more than 300 variations. These sequence differences can be classified into three distinct groups of antigenic variants that do not induce cross-protective immunity. Our goal was to generate a single antigen that would induce immunity against all known sequence variants of N. meningitidis. To achieve this, we rationally designed, expressed, and purified 54 different mutants of fHBP and tested them in mice for the induction of protective immunity. We identified and determined the crystal structure of a lead chimeric antigen that was able to induce high levels of cross-protective antibodies in mice against all variant strains tested. The new fHBP antigen had a conserved backbone that carried an engineered surface containing specificities for all three variant groups. We demonstrate that the structure-based design of multiple immunodominant antigenic surfaces on a single protein scaffold is possible and represents an effective way to create broadly protective vaccines.
Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) serogroups B, C and Y are the major causes of meningococcal diseases in the United States. NmB accounts for ?1/3 of the disease but no licensed vaccine is yet available. Two candidate vaccines are being developed specifically to target NmB, but may also provide protection against other serogroups. To assess the potential impact of these vaccines on NmB and other serogroups causing disease in the US, we determined the prevalence, genetic diversity and epidemiological characteristics of three candidate antigen genes in Nm isolates collected through Active Bacterial Core surveillance (ABCs), a population-based active surveillance program. fHbp was detected in all NmB, NmY and NmW135 isolates. Eleven NmC isolates contain fHbp with a single base-pair deletion creating a frame shift in the C-terminal region. Among NmB, 59% were FHbp subfamily/variant B/v1 and 41% A/v2-3. Among NmC and NmY, 39% and 3% were B/v1, respectively. nadA was detected in 39% of NmB, 61% of NmC and 4% of NmY. Among isolates tested, nhbA was present in all NmB and 96% of non-B. For the subset of strains sequenced for NadA and NhbA, pairwise identity was greater than 93% and 78%, respectively. The proportion of FHbp subfamily/variant was different between ABCs site and year, but no linear temporal trend was observed. Although assessment of the vaccine coverage also requires understanding of the antigen expression and the ability to induce bactericidal activity, our finding that all isolates contain one or more antigen genes suggests these candidate vaccines may protect against multiple Nm serogroups.
Molecular data on a limited number of chromosomal loci have shown that the population of Neisseria meningitidis (Nm), a deadly human pathogen, is structured in distinct lineages. Given that the Nm population undergoes substantial recombination, the mechanisms resulting in the evolution of these lineages, their persistence in time, and the implications for the pathogenicity of the bacterium are not yet completely understood. Based on whole-genome sequencing, we show that Nm is structured in phylogenetic clades. Through acquisition of specific genes and through insertions and rearrangements, each clade has acquired and remodeled specific genomic tracts, with the potential to impact on the commensal and virulence behavior of Nm. Despite this clear evidence of a structured population, we confirm high rates of detectable recombination throughout the whole Nm chromosome. However, gene conversion events were found to be longer within clades than between clades, suggesting a DNA cleavage mechanism associated with the phylogeny of the species. We identify 22 restriction modification systems, probably acquired by horizontal gene transfer from outside of the species/genus, whose distribution in the different strains coincides with the phylogenetic clade structure. We provide evidence that these clade-associated restriction modification systems generate a differential barrier to DNA exchange consistent with the observed population structure. These findings have general implications for the emergence of lineage structure and virulence in recombining bacterial populations, and they could provide an evolutionary framework for the population biology of a number of other bacterial species that show contradictory population structure and dynamics.
Neisseria meningitidis is a commensal of the human nasopharynx but is also a major cause of septicemia and meningitis. The meningococcal factor H binding protein (fHbp) binds human factor H (fH), enabling downregulation of complement activation on the bacterial surface. fHbp is a component of two serogroup B meningococcal vaccines currently in clinical development. Here we characterize 12 fHbp subvariants for their level of surface exposure and ability to bind fH, to mediate serum resistance, and to induce bactericidal antibodies. Flow cytometry and Western analysis revealed that all strains examined expressed fHbp on their surface to different extents and bound fH in an fHbp-dependent manner. However, differences in fH binding did not always correlate with the level of fHbp expression, indicating that this is not the only factor affecting the amount of fH bound. To overcome the issue of strain variability in fHbp expression, the MC58?fHbp strain was genetically engineered to express different subvariants from a constitutive heterologous promoter. These recombinant strains were characterized for fH binding, and the data confirmed that each subvariant binds different levels of fH. Surface plasmon resonance revealed differences in the stability of the fHbp-fH complexes that ranged over 2 orders of magnitude, indicating that differences in residues between and within variant groups can influence fH binding. Interestingly, the level of survival in human sera of recombinant MC58 strains expressing diverse subvariants did not correlate with the level of fH binding, suggesting that the interaction of fHbp with fH is not the only function of fHbp that influences serum resistance. Furthermore, cross-reactive bactericidal activity was seen within each variant group, although the degree of activity varied, suggesting that amino acid differences within each variant group influence the bactericidal antibody response.
A unique multicomponent vaccine against serogroup B meningococci incorporates the novel genome-derived proteins fHbp, NHBA, and NadA that may vary in sequence and level of expression. Measuring the effectiveness of such vaccines, using the accepted correlate of protection against invasive meningococcal disease, could require performing the serum bactericidal assay (SBA) against many diverse strains for each geographic region. This approach is impractical, especially for infants, where serum volumes are very limited. To address this, we developed the meningococcal antigen typing system (MATS) by combining a unique vaccine antigen-specific ELISA, which detects qualitative and quantitative differences in antigens, with PorA genotyping information. The ELISA correlates with killing of strains by SBA and measures both immunologic cross-reactivity and quantity of the antigens NHBA, NadA, and fHbp. We found that strains exceeding a threshold value in the ELISA for any of the three vaccine antigens had ?80% probability of being killed by immune serum in the SBA. Strains positive for two or more antigens had a 96% probability of being killed. Inclusion of multiple different antigens in the vaccine improves breadth of coverage and prevents loss of coverage if one antigen mutates or is lost. The finding that a simple and high-throughput assay correlates with bactericidal activity is a milestone in meningococcal vaccine development. This assay allows typing of large panels of strains and prediction of coverage of protein-based meningococcal vaccines. Similar assays may be used for protein-based vaccines against other bacteria.
Factor H binding protein (fHbp), one of the main antigens of new vaccines against serogroup B meningococcus, varies in amino acid sequence and level of expression in different clinical isolates. To evaluate the contribution of amino acid sequence variability to vaccine coverage, we constructed a strain that is susceptible to bactericidal killing only by anti-fHbp antibodies and engineered it to express equal levels of 10 different fHbp sub-variants from a constitutive promoter. Testing of these isogenic strains showed that sera from mice or adult volunteers vaccinated with fHbp variant 1.1 were bactericidal against all sub-variants 1 sequences, however the titer against the most distant sequences were several times lower. Sera from vaccinated infants were more susceptible to amino acid variations and they had lower or no bactericidal activity against the distant sub-variants 1 sequences in comparison with sera from adults given the same vaccines. The low coverage provided by fHbp could be overcome using a multicomponent vaccine. We conclude that fHbp is a very important antigen that induces bactericidal antibodies in animals, adults and infants. However, given its high variability of sequence and expression level, it is unlikely that fHbp alone can provide good protection in infants against the distant amino acid sequence variants and therefore multicomponent vaccines inducing protective immunity also against other antigens are more likely to induce a broad protective immunity in all age groups.
Invasive disease caused by meningococcal capsular groups A, C, W-135, and Y is now preventable by means of glycoconjugate vaccines that target their respective polysaccharide capsules. The capsule of group B meningococci (MenB) is poorly immunogenic and may induce autoimmunity. Vaccines based on the major immunodominant surface porin, PorA, are effective against clonal epidemics but, thus far, have a limited scope of coverage against the wider MenB population at large. In an alternative approach, the first-generation, investigational, recombinant MenB (rMenB) plus outer membrane vesicle (OMV) (rMenB-OMV) vaccine contains a number of relatively conserved surface proteins, fHBP, NHBA (previously GNA2132), and NadA, alongside PorA P1.4-containing OMVs from the New Zealand MeNZB vaccine. MenB currently accounts for approximately 90% of cases of meningococcal disease in England and Wales. To assess potential rMenB-OMV vaccine coverage of pathogenic MenB isolates within this region, all English and Welsh MenB case isolates from January 2008 (n = 87) were genetically characterized with respect to fHBP, NHBA, NadA, and PorA. Alleles for fHbp, nhba, and porA were identified in all of the isolates, of which 22% were also found to harbor nadA alleles. On the basis of genotypic data and predicted immunological cross-reactivity, the potential level of rMenB-OMV vaccine coverage in England and Wales ranges from 66% to 100%.
Highly effective glycoconjugate vaccines exist against four of the five major pathogenic groups of meningococci: A, C, W-135, and Y. An equivalent vaccine against group B meningococci (menB) has remained elusive due to the poorly immunogenic capsular polysaccharide. A promising alternative, the investigational recombinant menB (rMenB)- outer membrane vesicle (OMV) vaccine, contains fHBP, NHBA (previously GNA2132), NadA, and outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) from the New Zealand MeNZB vaccine. MenB currently accounts for 90% of meningococcal disease in England and Wales, where the multilocus sequence type (ST) 269 (ST269) clonal complex (cc269) has recently expanded to account for a third of menB cases. To assess the potential cc269 coverage of the rMenB-OMV vaccine, English and Welsh cc269 isolates from the past decade were genetically characterized with respect to fHBP, NHBA, and NadA. All of the isolates harbored fHbp and nhba alleles, while 98% of the cc269 isolates were devoid of nadA. Subvariant profiling of fHbp, nhba, and porA against STs revealed the presence of two broadly distinct and well-defined clusters of isolates, centered around ST269 and ST275, respectively. An additional molecular marker, insertion sequence IS1301, was found to be present in 100% and <2% of isolates of the respective clusters. On the basis of the genetic data, the potential rMenB-OMV coverage of cc269 in England and Wales is high (up to 100%) within both clusters. Expression studies and serum bactericidal antibody assays will serve to enhance predictions of coverage and will augment ongoing studies regarding the significance of IS1301 within the ST269 cluster.
The Oca (Oligomeric coiled-coil adhesin) family is a subgroup of the bacterial trimeric autotransporter adhesins, which includes structurally related proteins, such as YadA of Yersinia enterocolitica and NadA of Neisseria meningitidis. In this study, we searched in silico for novel members of this family in bacterial genomes and identified HadA (Haemophilus adhesin A), a trimeric autotransporter expressed only by Haemophilus influenzae biogroup aegyptius causing Brazilian purpuric fever (BPF), a fulminant septicemic disease of children. By comparative genomics and sequence analysis we predicted that the hadA gene is harboured on a mobile genetic element unique to BPF isolates. Biological analysis of HadA in the native background was limited because this organism is not amenable to genetic manipulation. Alternatively, we demonstrated that expression of HadA confers to a non-invasive Escherichia coli strain the ability to adhere to human cells and to extracellular matrix proteins and to induce in vitro bacterial aggregation and microcolony formation. Intriguingly, HadA is predicted to lack the typical N-terminal head domain of Oca proteins generally associated with cellular receptor binding. We propose here a structural model of the HadA coiled-coil stalk and show that the N-terminal region is still responsible of the binding activity and a KGD motif plays a role. Interestingly, HadA promotes bacterial entry into mammalian cells. Our results show a cytoskeleton re-arrangement and an involvement of clathrin in the HadA-mediated internalization. These data give new insights on the structure-function relationship of oligomeric coiled-coil adhesins and suggest a potential role of this protein in the pathogenesis of BPF.
The factor H binding protein (fHbp) is a 27-kDa membrane-anchored lipoprotein of Neisseria meningitidis that allows the survival of the bacterium in human plasma; it is also a major component of a universal vaccine against meningococcus B. In this study, we used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, mutagenesis, and in silico modeling to map the epitope recognized by MAb502, a bactericidal monoclonal antibody elicited by fHbp. The data show that the antibody recognizes a conformational epitope within a well-defined area of the immunodominant C-terminal domain of the protein that is formed by two loops connecting different beta-strands of a beta-barrel and a short alpha-helix brought in spatial proximity by the protein folding. The identification of the protective epitopes of fHbp is an important factor for understanding the mechanism(s) of an effective immune response and provides valuable guidelines for designing variants of the protein able to induce broadly protective immunity.
With the aim of studying the molecular diversity of the antigens of a new recombinant vaccine against meningococcus serogroup B, the three genes coding for the main vaccine components GNA (Genome-derived Neisseria Antigen) 1870 (fHbp, factor H Binding Protein), GNA1994 (NadA, Neisseria adhesin A) and GNA2132 were sequenced in a panel of 85 strains collected worldwide and selected as representative of the serogroup B meningococcal diversity. No correlations were found between vaccine antigen variability and serogroup, geographic area and year of isolation. Although a relevant clustering was found with MLST clonal complexes, each showing an almost specific antigen variant repertoire, the prediction of the antigen assortment was not possible on the basis of MLST alone. Therefore, classification of meningococcus on the basis of MLST only is not sufficient to predict vaccine antigens diversity. Sequencing each gene in the different strains will be important to evaluate antigen conservation and assortment and to allow a future prediction of potential vaccine coverage.
During the recent years, projects are in progress for designing broad-range non-capsular-based meningococcal vaccines, covering also serogroup B isolates. We have examined three genes encoding antigens (NadA, GNA1030 and GNA2091) included in a novel vaccine, i.e. the 5 Component Vaccine against Meningococcus B (5CVMB), in terms of gene prevalence and sequence variations. These data were combined with the results from a similar study, examining the two additional antigens included in the 5CVMB (fHbp and GNA2132). nadA and fHbp v. 1 were present in 38% (n=36), respectively 71% (n=67) of the isolates, whereas gna2132, gna1030 and gna2091 were present in all the Neisseria meningitidis isolates tested (n=95). The level of amino acid conservation was relatively high in GNA1030 (93%), GNA2091 (92%), and within the main variants of NadA and fHbp. GNA2132 (54% of the amino acids conserved) appeared to be the most diversified antigen. Consequently, the theoretical coverage of the 5CVMB antigens and the feasibility to use these in a broad-range meningococcal vaccine is appealing.
A new vaccine, 4CMenB, is composed of surface proteins of Neisseria meningitidis and is aimed to target serogroup B (MenB) isolates. The vaccine components are present in meningococcal isolates of other serogroups allowing potential use against meningococcal isolates belonging to non-B serogroups. Isolates of serogroup X (MenX) have been emerged in countries of the African meningitis belt. 4CMenB may offer a vaccine strategy against these isolates as there is no available capsule-based vaccine against MenX. We used the Meningococcal Antigen Typing System (MATS) to determine presence, diversity and levels of expression of 4CMenB antigens among 9 MenX isolates from several African countries in order to estimate the potential coverage of MenX by the 4CMenB vaccine. We performed bactericidal assays against these isolates, using pooled sera from 4CMenB-vaccinated infants, adolescents and adults. The African MenX isolates belonged to the same genotype but showed variation in the vaccine antigens. MATS data and bactericidal assays suggest coverage of the 9 African MenX isolates by 4CMenB but not of two unrelated MenX isolates from France. 4CMenB vaccine can be considered for further investigation to control MenX outbreaks in Africa.
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