Effect of gonococcal lipooligosaccharide variation on human monocytic cytokine profile
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Neisseria gonorrhoeae is an obligate human pathogen that causes significant worldwide morbidity. N. gonorrhoeae expresses lipooligosaccharide (LOS), a phase variable molecule that plays an important role during pathogenesis of the organism. Alteration in the structure of gonococcal LOS correlates with altered disease presentation. In addition, LOS sialylation occurs readily in vivo, though the role of this sialylation during disease is unknown. Challenge of human monocytes with purified LOS preparations isolated from strains expressing distinct structurally defined LOSs resulted in identical production of the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and interleukin-12 (IL-12). Similar results were seen when monocytes were challenged with either live or gentamicin-killed whole cell gonococcal variants expressing these LOS structures, although greater cytokine production was observed in comparison with challenge by purified LOS. Challenge of a human primary monocyte model with distinct LOS variants resulted in similar production of TNFα, IL-12, interleukin-10 (IL-10), and interleukin-8 (IL-8). A cytokine array was employed to allow measurement of a broad range of cytokines in samples challenge with gonococcal LOS variants as well as variants expressing sialylated LOS. Challenge of primary monocytes with sialylated gonococci was shown to elicit the production of more MCP-2 (monocyte chemoattractant protein-2) in comparison with challenge by unsialylated gonococci. We demonstrated that while alterations in the carbohydrate moiety of LOS do not impact the production of most cytokines by human monocytes, whole-cell bacterial challenge is more stimulatory than challenge with purified LOS, implying that other gonococcal cell surface antigens are important for the elicitation of cytokines. Challenge with gonococci expressing sialylated LOS resulted in elicitation of more of the chemokine MCP-2 from challenged cells in comparison with gonococci expressing unsialylated LOS. As MCP-2 is an important chemoattractant, this indicates that in vivo sialylation may play an important role during the pathogenesis of N. gonorrhoeae.