The characterization of novel transgenic murine models of Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection and development of a natural outer membrane vesicle anti-gonococcal vaccine candidate
Francis, Ian Patrick
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Untreatable gonorrhea, caused by fully antimicrobial resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae (GC), is a major global health threat. While a vaccine would greatly help address this crisis, development of a GC vaccine is complicated by the lack of lab models of symptomatic gonorrhea. We hypothesized that overt disease in animal models of gonorrhea is limited by the human-restriction of gonococcal virulence factors, and the impact of the reproductive hormone cycle (estrus and diestrus phases). We tested these hypotheses by examining the host response to infection in transgenic mice expressing targets of bacterial adhesion, human carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecules (hCEACAMs), in uterine versus vaginal infections, and in different phases of the reproductive cycle (estrus and diestrus phases). hCEACAM expression most impacted estrus phase infections, prolonging colonization in vaginal infection and inducing greater inflammation in uterine. Reproductive phase greatly influenced host response to uterine infection as diestrus infection was more inflammatory than estrus. Phase differences in uterine infection were driven by greater activation of a chemokine-centric common anti gonococcal response and unique induction of type 1 interferons in diestrus. These findings suggest that symptomatic uterine and vaginal GC infection can be modeled by transcervically infected wild-type diestrus mice and transgenic, vaginally-infected estrus mice, respectively. A novel approach to GC vaccine development is also needed. Mono-antigenic vaccines have failed to produce immunity suggesting a poly-antigenic antigen, like natural outer membrane vesicles (nOMVs) may be necessary. It has been shown that any GC vaccine must lack the bacterioprotective antigen, reduction modifiable protein (RMP), and no such nOMV has been previously described. Here we report successful isolation of RMP-deficient nOMVs through sequential size and weight restrictive filtration. Vesicle morphology, proteomics, and bioactivity was characterized via various methods. nOMVs were found to be consistent in size, shape and antigenic load. As antigens, nOMVs induced high serum titers and measurable vaginal levels of antigen and GC specific IgG that recognized several nOMV immunogens supporting the vaccine potential of GC nOMVs. These findings lay the groundwork for protective studies of nOMV vaccines in novel models of active gonorrhea moving the field closer to discovering the mechanism of protective anti-gonococcal immunity.
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