The Neisseria gonorrhoeae Vaccine Candidate NHBA Elicits Antibodies That Are Bactericidal, Opsonophagocytic and That Reduce Gonococcal Adherence to Epithelial Cells.
ABSTRACT: Due to the continuing emergence of multidrug resistant strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae there is an urgent need for the development of a gonococcal vaccine. We evaluated the gonococcal Neisseria heparin binding antigen (NHBA) as a potential vaccine candidate, in terms of its sequence conservation and expression in a range of N. gonorrhoeae strains, as well as its immunogenicity and the functional activity of antibodies raised to either the full length NHBA or a C-terminal fragment of NHBA (NHBA-c). The gene encoding NHBA is highly conserved and expressed in all N. gonorrhoeae strains investigated. Recombinant NHBA is immunogenic, and mice immunized with either NHBA or NHBA-c adjuvanted with either Freund's or aluminium hydroxide (alum) generated a humoral immune response, with predominantly IgG1 antibodies. Antibodies generated by both NHBA and NHBA-c antigens promoted complement activation and mediated bacterial killing via both serum bactericidal activity and opsonophagocytic activity, with slightly higher titers seen for the NHBA-c antigen. Anti-NHBA was also able to block the functional activity of NHBA by reducing binding to heparin and adherence to cervical and urethral epithelial cells. These data suggest that the gonococcal NHBA is a promising vaccine antigen to include in a vaccine to control N. gonorrhoeae.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis are closely-related bacteria that cause a significant global burden of disease. Control of gonorrhoea is becoming increasingly difficult, due to widespread antibiotic resistance. While vaccines are routinely used for N. meningitidis, no vaccine is available for N. gonorrhoeae. Recently, the outer membrane vesicle (OMV) meningococcal B vaccine, MeNZB, was reported to be associated with reduced rates of gonorrhoea following a mass vaccination campaign in New Zealand. To probe the basis for this protection, we assessed the cross-reactivity to N. gonorrhoeae of serum raised to the meningococcal vaccine Bexsero, which contains the MeNZB OMV component plus 3 recombinant antigens (Neisseria adhesin A, factor H binding protein [fHbp]-GNA2091, and Neisserial heparin binding antigen [NHBA]-GNA1030). METHODS:A bioinformatic analysis was performed to assess the similarity of MeNZB OMV and Bexsero antigens to gonococcal proteins. Rabbits were immunized with the OMV component or the 3 recombinant antigens of Bexsero, and Western blots and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays were used to assess the generation of antibodies recognizing N. gonorrhoeae. Serum from humans immunized with Bexsero was investigated to assess the nature of the anti-gonococcal response. RESULTS:There is a high level of sequence identity between MeNZB OMV and Bexsero OMV antigens, and between the antigens and gonococcal proteins. NHBA is the only Bexsero recombinant antigen that is conserved and surfaced exposed in N. gonorrhoeae. Bexsero induces antibodies in humans that recognize gonococcal proteins. CONCLUSIONS:The anti-gonococcal antibodies induced by MeNZB-like OMV proteins could explain the previously-seen decrease in gonorrhoea following MeNZB vaccination. The high level of human anti-gonococcal NHBA antibodies generated by Bexsero vaccination may provide additional cross-protection against gonorrhoea.
Project description:The sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea is on the rise worldwide and an increased understanding of the mechanisms of colonization and pathogenesis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae is required to aid development of new treatment and prevention strategies. In the current study, we investigate the neisserial heparin-binding antigen (NHBA) of N. gonorrhoeae and confirm its role in binding to several glycans, including heparin, and identify interactions of NHBA with both gonococcal and host cells. Furthermore, we report that a gonococcal nhba mutant displays decreased cell aggregation and microcolony formation, as well as reduced survival in human serum and reduced adherence to human cervical and urethral epithelial cells, relative to the wild-type strain. These data indicate that the gonococcal NHBA contributes to several aspects of the colonization and survival of N. gonorrhoeae and may be a target for new antimicrobial or vaccines.
Project description:Neisserial Heparin Binding Antigen (NHBA) is a surface-exposed lipoprotein ubiquitously expressed by Neisseria meningitidis strains and an antigen of the Bexsero® vaccine. NHBA binds heparin through a conserved Arg-rich region that is the target of two proteases, the meningococcal NalP and human lactoferrin (hLf). In this work, in vitro studies showed that recombinant NHBA protein was able to bind epithelial cells and mutations of the Arg-rich tract abrogated this binding. All N-terminal and C-terminal fragments generated by NalP or hLf cleavage, regardless of the presence or absence of the Arg-rich region, did not bind to cells, indicating that a correct positioning of the Arg-rich region within the full length protein is crucial. Moreover, binding was abolished when cells were treated with heparinase III, suggesting that this interaction is mediated by heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs). N. meningitidis nhba knockout strains showed a significant reduction in adhesion to epithelial cells with respect to isogenic wild-type strains and adhesion of the wild-type strain was inhibited by anti-NHBA antibodies in a dose-dependent manner. Overall, the results demonstrate that NHBA contributes to meningococcal adhesion to epithelial cells through binding to HSPGs and suggest a possible role of anti-Bexsero® antibodies in the prevention of colonization.
Project description:Neisserial heparin binding antigen (NHBA) is one of three main recombinant protein antigens in 4CMenB, a vaccine for the prevention of invasive meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B. NHBA is a surface-exposed lipoprotein composed of a predicted disordered N-terminal region, an arginine-rich region that binds heparin, and a C-terminal domain that folds as an anti-parallel ?-barrel and that upon release after cleavage by human proteases alters endothelial permeability. NHBA induces bactericidal antibodies in humans, and NHBA-specific antibodies elicited by the 4CMenB vaccine contribute to serum bactericidal activity, the correlate of protection. To better understand the structural bases of the human antibody response to 4CMenB vaccination and to inform antigen design, we used X-ray crystallography to elucidate the structures of two C-terminal fragments of NHBA, either alone or in complex with the Fab derived from the vaccine-elicited human monoclonal antibody 5H2, and the structure of the unbound Fab 5H2. The structures reveal details on the interaction between an N-terminal ?-hairpin fragment and the ?-barrel, and explain how NHBA is capable of generating cross-reactive antibodies through an extensive conserved conformational epitope that covers the entire C-terminal face of the ?-barrel. By providing new structural information on a vaccine antigen and on the human immune response to vaccination, these results deepen our molecular understanding of 4CMenB, and might also aid future vaccine design projects.
Project description:Neisserial heparin-binding antigen (NHBA) is a surface-exposed lipoprotein from Neisseria meningitidis and is a component of the meningococcus B vaccine Bexsero. As part of a study to characterize the three-dimensional structure of NHBA and the molecular basis of the human immune response to Bexsero, the crystal structures of two fragment antigen-binding domains (Fabs) isolated from human monoclonal antibodies targeting NHBA were determined. Through a high-resolution analysis of the organization and the amino-acid composition of the CDRs, these structures provide broad insights into the NHBA epitopes recognized by the human immune system. As expected, these Fabs also show remarkable structural conservation, as shown by a structural comparison of 15 structures of apo Fab 10C3 which were obtained from crystals grown in different crystallization conditions and were solved while searching for a complex with a bound NHBA fragment or epitope peptide. This study also provides indirect evidence for the intrinsically disordered nature of two N-terminal regions of NHBA.
Project description:MenB-4C (Bexsero®) is a multicomponent serogroup B meningococcal vaccine. For vaccine licensure, efficacy was inferred from serum bactericidal antibody (SBA) against three antigen-specific indicator strains. The bactericidal role of antibody to the fourth vaccine antigen, Neisserial Heparin binding antigen (NHba), is incompletely understood.We identified nine adults immunized with two or three doses of MenB-4C who had sufficient volumes of sera and >3-fold increases in SBA titer against a strain with high NHba expression, which was mismatched with the other three MenB-4C antigens that elicit SBA. Using 1month-post-immunization sera we measured the effect of depletion of anti-NHba and/or anti-Factor H binding protein (FHbp) antibodies on SBA.Against three strains matched with the vaccine only for NHba, depletion of anti-NHba decreased SBA titers by an average of 43-79% compared to mock-adsorbed sera (P<0.05). Despite expression of sub-family A FHbp (mismatched with the sub-family B vaccine antigen), depletion of anti-FHbp antibodies also decreased SBA by 45-64% (P<0.05). Depletion of both antibodies decreased SBA by 84-100%. Against a strain with sub-family B FHbp and expression of NHba with 100% identity to the vaccine antigen, depletion of anti-NHba decreased SBA by an average of 26%, compared to mock-adsorbed sera (P<0.0001), and depletion of anti-FHbp antibody decreased SBA by 92% (P<0.0001).Anti-NHba antibody can contribute to SBA elicited by MenB-4C, particularly in concert with anti-FHbp antibody. However, some high NHba-expressing strains are resistant, even with an exact match between the amino acid sequence of the vaccine and strain antigens.
Project description:Neisseria heparin binding antigen (NHBA), also known as GNA2132 (genome-derived Neisseria antigen 2132), is a surface-exposed lipoprotein from Neisseria meningitidis that was originally identified by reverse vaccinology. It is one the three main antigens of a multicomponent vaccine against serogroup B meningitis (4CMenB), which has just completed phase III clinical trials in infants. In contrast to the other two main vaccine components, little is known about the origin of the immunogenicity of this antigen, and about its ability to induce a strong cross-bactericidal response in animals and humans. To characterize NHBA in terms of its structural/immunogenic properties, we have analyzed its sequence and identified a C-terminal region that is highly conserved in all strains. We demonstrate experimentally that this region is independently folded, and solved its three-dimensional structure by nuclear magnetic resonance. Notably, we need detergents to observe a single species in solution. The NHBA domain fold consists of an 8-strand β-barrel that closely resembles the C-terminal domains of N. meningitidis factor H-binding protein and transferrin-binding protein B. This common fold together with more subtle structural similarities suggest a common ancestor for these important antigens and a role of the β-barrel fold in inducing immunogenicity against N. meningitidis. Our data represent the first step toward understanding the relationship between structural, functional, and immunological properties of this important vaccine component.
Project description:Neisseria meningitidis is a Gram-negative bacterial pathogen that causes life threatening meningitis and septicemia. Neisseria Heparin Binding Antigen (NHBA) is an outer membrane protein that binds heparin and heparan sulfate and DNA. This protein is one of the four antigens in the meningococcal serogroup B vaccine Bexsero. In the current study, we sought to define the full glycan-binding repertoire of NHBA to better understand its role in meningococcal pathogenesis and vaccine efficacy. Glycan array analysis revealed binding to 28 structures by recombinant NHBA. Surface plasmon resonance was used to confirm the binding phenotype and to determine the affinity of the interactions. These studies revealed that the highest affinity binding of NHBA was with chondroitin sulfate (KD?=?5.2?nM). This affinity is 10-fold higher than observed for heparin. Analysis of binding with well-defined disaccharides of the different chondroitin sulfate types demonstrated that the most preferred ligand has a sulfate at the 2 position of the GlcA/IdoA and 6 position of the GalNAc, which is an equivalent structure to chondroitin sulfate D. Chondroitin sulfate is widely expressed in human tissues, while chondroitin sulfate D is predominantly expressed in the brain and may constitute a new receptor structure for meningococci.
Project description:Neisserial Heparin Binding Antigen (NHBA) is a surface-exposed lipoprotein of Neisseria meningitidis and a component of the Bexsero vaccine. NHBA is characterized by the presence of a highly conserved Arg-rich region involved in binding to heparin and heparan sulphate proteoglycans present on the surface of host epithelial cells, suggesting a possible role of NHBA during N. meningitidis colonization. NHBA has been shown to be cleaved by the meningococcal protease NalP and by human lactoferrin (hLF), a host protease presents in different body fluids (saliva, breast milk and serum). Cleavage occurs upstream or downstream the Arg-rich region. Since the human nasopharynx is the only known reservoir of infection, we further investigated the susceptibility of NHBA to human proteases present in the saliva to assess whether proteolytic cleavage could happen during the initial steps of colonization. Here we show that human saliva proteolytically cleaves NHBA, and identified human kallikrein 1 (hK1), a serine protease, as responsible for this cleavage. Kallikrein-related peptidases (KLKs) have a distinct domain structure and exist as a family of 15 genes which are differentially expressed in many tissues and in the central nervous system. They are present in plasma, lymph, urine, saliva, pancreatic juices, and other body fluids where they catalyze the proteolysis of several human proteins. Here we report the characterization of NHBA cleavage by the tissue kallikrein, expressed in saliva and the identification of the cleavage site on NHBA both, as recombinant protein or as native protein, when expressed on live bacteria. Overall, these findings provide new insights on NHBA as target of host proteases, highlights thepotential role of NHBA in the Neisseria meningitidis nasopharyngeal colonization, and of kallikrein as a defensive agent against meningococcal infection.
Project description:Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the causative agent of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) gonorrhea, is a growing public health threat for which a vaccine is urgently needed. We characterized the functional role of the gonococcal MetQ protein, which is the methionine binding component of an ABC transporter system, and assessed its potential as a candidate antigen for inclusion in a gonococcal vaccine. MetQ has been found to be highly conserved in all strains investigated to date, it is localized on the bacterial surface, and it binds l-methionine with a high affinity. MetQ is also involved in gonococcal adherence to cervical epithelial cells. Mutants lacking MetQ have impaired survival in human monocytes, macrophages, and serum. Furthermore, antibodies raised against MetQ are bactericidal and are able to block gonococcal adherence to epithelial cells. These data suggest that MetQ elicits both bactericidal and functional blocking antibodies and is a valid candidate antigen for additional investigation and possible inclusion in a vaccine for prevention of gonorrhea.