Factor H binding protein (fHBP) is a surface-exposed lipoprotein in Neisseria meningitidis, which is a component of several investigational vaccines against serogroup B meningococcus (MenB)currently in development. fHBP enables the bacterium to evade complement-mediated killing by binding factor H, a key downregulator of the complement alternative pathway, and, in addition, fHBP is important for meningococcal survival in the presence of the antimicrobial peptide LL-37. In this study, we investigate the molecular mechanisms involved in transcription and regulation of the fHBP-encoding gene, fhbp. We show that the fHBP protein is expressed from two independent transcripts: one bicistronic transcript that includes the upstream gene and a second shorter monocistronic transcript from its own dedicated promoter, P(fhbp). Transcription from the promoter P(fhbp) responds to oxygen limitation in an FNR-dependent manner, and, accordingly, the FNR protein binds to a P(fhbp) probe in vitro. Furthermore, expression in meningococci of a constitutively active FNR mutant results in the overexpression of the fHBP protein. Finally, the analysis of fHBP regulation was extended to a panel of strains expressing different fHBP allelic variants at different levels, and we demonstrate that FNR is involved in the regulation of this antigen in all but one of the strains tested. Our data suggest that oxygen limitation may play an important role in inducing the expression of fHBP from a dedicated FNR-regulated promoter. This implies a role for this protein in microenvironments lacking oxygen, for instance in the submucosa or intracellularly, in addition to its demonstrated role in serum resistance in the blood.
File in questo prodotto:
Eventuali allegati, non sono esposti