Dual Pili Post-translational Modifications Synergize to Mediate Meningococcal Adherence to Platelet Activating Factor Receptor on Human Airway Cells

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PLOS Pathogens 9(5): e1003377, 16 May 2013;  doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003377

Abstract

Pili of pathogenic Neisseria are major virulence factors associated with adhesion, twitching motility, auto-aggregation, and DNA transformation. Pili of N. meningitidis are subject to several different post-translational modifications. Among these pilin modifications, the presence of phosphorylcholine (ChoP) and a glycan on the pilin protein are phase-variable (subject to high frequency, reversible on/off switching of expression). In this study we report the location of two ChoP modifications on the C-terminus of N. meningitidis pilin. We show that the surface accessibility of ChoP on pili is affected by phase variable changes to the structure of the pilin-linked glycan. We identify for the first time that the platelet activating factor receptor (PAFr) is a key, early event receptor for meningococcal adherence to human bronchial epithelial cells and tissue, and that synergy between the pilin-linked glycan and ChoP post-translational modifications is required for pili to…

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