Molecular cloning and functional characterisation of components of the capsule biosynthesis complex of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A: towards in vitro vaccine production [Microbiology]

May 21st, 2014 by Fiebig, T., Freiberger, F., Pinto, V., Romano, M.-R., Black, A., Litschko, C., Bethe, A., Yashunsky, D., Adamo, R., Nikolaev, A., Berti, F., Gerardy-Schahn, R.

The human pathogen Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis and sepsis globally. A major virulence factor of Nm is the capsular polysaccharide (CPS), which in Nm serogroup A consists of N−acetyl−mannosamine−1−phosphate units linked together by phosphodiester linkages [→6)−α−D−ManNAc−(1→OPO3−→]n. Acetylation in O−3 (to a minor extent in O−4) position results in immunologically active polymer. In the capsule gene cluster (cps) of Nm, region A contains the genetic information for CPSA biosynthesis. Thereby, the open reading frames csaA, −B, and −C are thought to encode the UDP−N−acetyl−D−glucosamine−2−epimerase, poly−ManNAc−1−phosphate−transferase, and O−acetyltransferase, respectively. With the aim to use a minimal number of recombinant enzymes to produce immunologically active CPSA, we cloned the genes csaA, csaB and csaC and functionally characterized the purified recombinant proteins. If recombinant CsaA and CsaB were combined in one reaction tube, priming CPSA−oligosaccharides were efficiently elongated with UDP−GlcNAc as donor substrate, confirming that CsaA is the functional UDP−N−acetyl−D−glucosamine−2−epimerase and CsaB the functional poly−ManNAc−1−phosphate−transferase. Subsequently, CsaB was shown to transfer ManNAc−1P onto O−6 of the non−reducing end sugar of priming oligosaccharides, to prefer non−O−acetylated over O−acetylated primers, and to efficiently elongate the dimer of ManNAc−1−phosphate. The in vitro synthesised CPSA was purified, O−acetylated with recombinant CsaC, and proven to be identical to the natural CPSA by 1H NMR, 31P NMR and immunoblotting. If all three enzymes and their substrates were combined in a one-pot reaction, nature identical CPSA was obtained. These data provide the basis for the development of novel vaccine production protocols.
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