Structure of the expression site reveals global diversity in MSP2 (P44) variants in Anaplasma phagocytophilum.
ABSTRACT: Anaplasma phagocytophilum, a recently reclassified bacteria in the order Rickettsiales, infects many different animal species and causes an emerging tick-borne disease of humans. The genome contains a large number of related genes and gene fragments encoding partial or apparently full-length outer membrane protein MSP2 (P44). Previous data using strains isolated from humans in the United States suggest that antigenic diversity results from RecF-mediated conversion of a single MSP2 (P44) expression site by partially homologous donor sequences. However, whether similar mechanisms operate in naturally infected animal species and the extent of global diversity in MSP2 (P44) are unknown. We analyzed the structure and diversity of the MSP2 (P44) expression site in strains derived from the United States and Europe and from infections of different animal species, including wildlife reservoirs. The results show that a syntenic expression site is present in all strains of A. phagocytophilum investigated. This genomic locus contained diverse MSP2 (P44) variants in all infected animals sampled, and variants also differed at different time points during infection. Although similar variants were found among different populations of U.S. origin, there was little sequence identity between U.S. strain variants (including genomic copies from a completely sequenced U.S. strain) and expression site variants infecting sheep and dogs in Norway and Sweden. Finally, the possibility that combinatorial mechanisms can generate additional diversity beyond the basic donor sequence repertoire is supported by the observation of shared sequence blocks throughout the MSP2 (P44) hypervariable region in reservoir hosts. These data suggest similar genetic mechanisms for A. phagocytophilum variation in all hosts but worldwide diversity of the MSP2 (P44) outer membrane protein.
Project description:Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the causative agent of tick-borne fever in small ruminants and has been identified as the zoonotic agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis. The Norwegian strains of the rickettsia are naturally persistent in lambs and represent a suitable experimental system for analyzing the mechanisms of persistence. Variation of the outer membrane protein MSP2(P44) by recombination of variable pseudogene segments into an expression site is believed to play a key role in persistence of the organism. The goal of the present study was to analyze the dynamics of the immune response towards A. phagocytophilum and MSP2(P44) during persistent infection of lambs. Responses to the hypervariable region of MSP2(P44) were detected shortly after appearance of the respective variants in cyclic rickettsemic peaks, consistent with a process of antigenic variation. In addition, there was a diminishing antibody response to MSP2(P44) and to other A. phagocytophilum antigens overall with time of infection, that was not associated with clearance of the infection.
Project description:Molecular characterization of the MSP2/P44 protein of Anaplasma phagocytophilum may determine not only if the bacterium is capable of invading hosts but also whether it generates antigenic variation for the purpose of escaping the host immune response, resulting in various pathologic injuries and serious clinical outcomes. Chinese anaplasmosis patients usually present with serious manifestations, and the fatality rate is as high as 26.5%. In this study, we amplified, cloned and sequenced the msp2/p44 genes of three Chinese A. phagocytophilum isolates from Laizhou Bay, Shandong Province, where human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) patients present severe clinical manifestations, and analyzed their genetic characterization and structural features. We also compared them with the HZ and Webster A. phagocytophilum strains. The sequences for both strains are available in GenBank. Analyses indicated that Chinese A. phagocytophilum isolates were significantly different from the HZ and Webster strains in terms of nucleotide sequences, amino acid sequences and protein secondary and tertiary structures. Moreover, the number of immunologic B-cell epitopes (19) of the MSP2 protein of the Chinese isolates was higher than that of the A. phagocytophilum strains HZ (16) and Webster (9). This genetic diversity of the MSP2/P44 protein of Chinese A. phagocytophilum isolates might be relevant and might have serious clinical outcomes. This observation could provide a clue to further understand the pathogenesis of Chinese A. phagocytophilum.
Project description:The msp2 and p44 genes encode polymorphic major outer membrane proteins that are considered unique to the intraerythrocytic agent of Anaplasma marginale and the intragranulocytic agent of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, respectively. In the present study, however, we found an msp2 gene in A. phagocytophilum that was remarkably conserved among A. phagocytophilum strains from human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) patients, ticks, and a horse from various regions in the United States, but the gene was different in a sheep isolate from the United Kingdom. The msp2 gene in the A. phagocytophilum strain HZ genome was a single-copy gene and was located downstream of two Ehrlichia chaffeensis omp-1 homologs and a decarboxylase gene (ubiD). The msp2 gene was expressed by A. phagocytophilum in the blood from HGA patients NY36 and NY37 and by A. phagocytophilum isolates from these patients cultured in HL-60 cells at 37 degrees C. The msp2 gene was also expressed in a DBA/2 mouse infected by attaching ticks infected with strain NTN-1 and in a horse experimentally infected by attaching strain HZ-infected ticks. However, the transcript of the msp2 gene was undetectable in A. phagocytophilum strain HZ in SCID mice and Ixodes scapularis ticks infected with strain NTN-1. These results indicate that msp2 is functional in various strains of A. phagocytophilum, and relative expression ratios of msp2 to p44 vary in different infected hosts. These findings may be important in understanding roles that Msp2 proteins play in granulocytic ehrlichia infection and evolution of the polymorphic major outer membrane protein gene families in Anaplasma species.
Project description:Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the causative agent of an emerging tick-borne zoonosis in the United States and Europe. The organism causes a febrile illness accompanied by other nonspecific symptoms and can be fatal, especially if treatment is delayed. Persistence of A. phagocytophilum within mammalian reservoir hosts is important for ensuring continued disease transmission. In the related organism Anaplasma marginale, persistence is associated with antigenic variation of the immunoprotective outer membrane protein MSP2. Extensive diversity of MSP2 is achieved by combinatorial gene conversion of a genomic expression site by truncated pseudogenes. The major outer membrane protein of A. phagocytophilum, MSP2(P44), is homologous to MSP2 of A. marginale, has a similar organization of conserved and variable regions, and is also encoded by a multigene family containing some truncated gene copies. This suggests that the two organisms could use similar mechanisms to generate diversity in outer membrane proteins from their small genomes. We define here a genomic expression site for MSP2(P44) in A. phagocytophilum. As in A. marginale, the msp2(p44) gene in this expression site is polymorphic in all populations of organisms we have examined, whether organisms are obtained from in vitro culture in human HL-60 cells, from culture in the tick cell line ISE6, or from infected human blood. Changes in culture conditions were found to favor the growth and predominance of certain msp2(p44) variants. Insertions, deletions, and substitutions in the region of the genomic expression site encoding the central hypervariable region matched sequence polymorphisms in msp2(p44) mRNA. These data suggest that, similarly to A. marginale, A. phagocytophilum uses combinatorial mechanisms to generate a large array of outer membrane protein variants. Such gene polymorphism has profound implications for the design of vaccines, diagnostic tests, and therapy.
Project description:Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligately intracellular, tick-transmitted, bacterial pathogen of humans and other animals. In order to evade host immunity during the course of infection, A. phagocytophilum utilizes gene conversion to shuffle approximately 100 functional pseudogenes into a single expression cassette of the msp2(p44) gene, which encodes the major surface antigen, major surface protein 2 (Msp2). The role and extent of msp2(p44) recombination in a reservoir host for A. phagocytophilum have not been evaluated. In the current study, we explored patterns of recombination and expression site variability of the msp2(p44) gene in three chronically infected woodrats, a reservoir for the disease in the Western USA. All three woodrats developed persistent infection of at least 6 months duration; two of them maintained active infection for at least 8 months. In total, we detected the emergence of 60 unique msp2(p44) expression site variants with no common temporal patterns of expression site recombination among the three A. phagocytophilum populations. Both the strength of infection (i.e. pathogen load) and the genetic diversity of pseudogenes detected at the msp2(p44) expression site fluctuated periodically during the course of infection. An analysis of the genomic pseudogene exhaustion rate showed that the repertoire of pseudogenes available to the A. phagocytophilum population could in theory become depleted within a year. However, the apparent emergence of variant pseudogenes suggests that the pathogen could potentially evade host immunity indefinitely. Our findings suggest a tightly co-evolved relationship between A. phagocytophilum and woodrats in which the pathogen perpetually evades host immunity yet causes no detectable disease.
Project description:Anaplasma phagocytophilum strains often vary in Msp2 expression, a situation assumed to be related to immune evasion. However, Msp2 is also an adhesin, and little is known about the role of endogenous msp2 transcriptional changes in the absence of immune selection. Thus, Msp2 profiles and msp2 transcripts of low passage A. phagocytophilum Webster strain, initially comprised of a single abundant msp2 transcript, were re-examined after > or = 20 in vitro passages without immune selection.Using an Msp2 monoclonal antibody, immunoblots revealed an unchanged dominant band and several weak bands that appeared with passage. Similarly, msp2 transcript diversity changed, with a decrease in the initially abundant low passage transcript and appearance of a newly abundant and several minor msp2 transcripts with high passage. BLASTN search of the A. phagocytophilum HZ strain genome revealed > or = 52 msp2 paralogs.Msp2 expression and msp2 transcription modulate even without immune selective pressures. However, the limited diversity of msp2 transcripts in the absence of immune pressure suggests selection for Msp2 by specific functions beyond that of immune evasion, in spite of a large genomic reservoir for Msp2 diversity.
Project description:Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligately intracellular tick-transmitted bacterial pathogen of humans and other animals. During the course of infection, A. phagocytophilum utilizes gene conversion to shuffle ?100 functional pseudogenes into a single expression cassette of the msp2(p44) gene, which codes for the major surface antigen and major surface protein 2 (MSP2). The role and extent of msp2(p44) recombination, particularly in hosts that only experience acute infections, is not clear. In the present study, we explored patterns of recombination and expression of the msp2(p44) gene of A. phagocytophilum in a serially infected mouse model. Even though the bacterium was passed rapidly among mice, minimizing the opportunities for the host to develop adaptive immunity, we detected the emergence of 34 unique msp2(p44) expression cassette variants. The expression of msp2(p44) pseudogenes did not follow a consistent pattern among different groups of mice, although some pseudogenes were expressed more frequently than others. In addition, among 263 expressed pseudogenes, 3 mosaic sequences each consisting of 2 different pseudogenes were identified. Population genetic analysis showed that genetic diversity and subpopulation differentiation tended to increase over time until stationarity was reached but that the variance that was observed in allele (expressed pseudogene) frequency could occur by drift alone only if a high variance in bacterial reproduction could be assumed. These findings suggest that evolutionary forces influencing antigen variation in A. phagocytophilum may comprise random genetic drift as well as some innate but apparently nonpurifying selection prior to the strong frequency-dependent selection that occurs cyclically after hosts develop strong adaptive immunity.
Project description:We analyzed the structure of the expression site encoding the immunoprotective protein MSP2/P44 from multiple Anaplasma phagocytophilum strains in the United States. The sequence of p44ESup1 had diverged in Ap-variant 1 strains infecting ruminants. In contrast, no differences were detected between A. phagocytophilum strains infecting humans and domestic dogs.
Project description:Many microbial pathogens alter expression and/or posttranslational modifications of their surface proteins in response to dynamics within their host microenvironments to retain optimal interactions with their host cells and/or to evade the humoral immune response. Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an intragranulocytic bacterium that utilizes sialyl Lewis x (sLe(x))-modified P-selectin glycoprotein ligand 1 as a receptor for infecting myeloid cells. Bacterial populations that do not rely on this receptor can be obtained through cultivation in sLe(x)-defective cell lines. A. phagocytophilum major surface protein 2 [Msp2(P44)] is encoded by members of a paralogous gene family and is speculated to play roles in host adaptation. We assessed the complement of Msp2(P44) paralogs expressed by A. phagocytophilum during infection of sLe(x)-competent HL-60 cells and two HL-60 cell lines defective for sLe(x) expression. Multiple Msp2(P44) and N-terminally truncated 25- to 27-kDa isoforms having various isoelectric points and electrophoretic mobilities were expressed in each cell line. The complement of expressed msp2(p44) paralogs and the glycosyl residues modifying Msp2(P44) varied considerably among bacterial populations recovered from sLe(x)-competent and -deficient host cells. Thus, loss of host cell sLe(x) expression coincided with both differential expression and glycosylation of A. phagocytophilum Msp2(P44). This reinforces the hypothesis that this bacterium is able to generate a large variety of surface-exposed molecules that could provide great antigenic diversity and result in multiple binding properties.
Project description:Anaplasma phagocytophilum causes human granulocytic anaplasmosis by inducing immunopathologic responses. Its immunodominant Msp2 protein is encoded by a family of >100 paralogs. Msp2 (msp2) expression modulates in the absence of immune pressure, and prolonged in vitro passage modulates in vivo virulence. Because programmed MSP2 expression occurs in Anaplasma marginale, we hypothesized a similar event in A. phagocytophilum in vivo, with specific Msp2 expression triggering immunopathologic injury or clinical manifestations of disease. We examined msp2 transcripts in 11 B6 mice and 6 horses inoculated with low- or high-passage A. phagocytophilum Webster strain. Blood was sequentially obtained through 3 weeks postinfection for msp2 reverse transcription-PCR. Horses were additionally assessed for clinical manifestations, seroconversion, complete blood count, blood chemistry, and cytokine gene transcription. In both species, there was no consistent emergence of msp2 transcripts, and all 22 msp2 variants were detected in both passage groups. Clinical severity was much higher for high-passage-infected than for low-passage-infected horses, preceded by higher levels of blood gamma interferon transcription on day 7. Antibody was first detected on day 7, and all horses seroconverted by day 22, with a trend toward lower antibody titers in low-passage-infected animals. Leukocyte and platelet counts were similar between experimental groups except on day 13, when low-passage-infected animals had more profound thrombocytopenia. These findings corroborate studies with mice, where msp2 diversity did not explain differences in hepatic histopathology, but differ from the paradigm of low-passage A. phagocytophilum causing more significant clinical illness. Alteration in transcription of msp2 has no bearing on clinical disease in horses, suggesting the existence of a separate proinflammatory component differentially expressed with changing in vitro passage.