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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Nov;42(3):659-72.

Receptor-mediated endocytosis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae into primary human urethral epithelial cells: the role of the asialoglycoprotein receptor.

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Department of Microbiology, Bowen Science Building, 51 Newton Road, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Urethral epithelial cells are invaded by Neisseria gonorrhoeae during gonococcal infection in men. To understand further the mechanisms of gonococcal entry into host cells, we used the primary human urethral epithelial cells (PHUECs) tissue culture system recently developed by our laboratory. These studies showed that human asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGP-R) and the terminal lactosamine of lacto-N-neotetraose-expressing gonococcal lipooligosaccharide (LOS) play an important role in invasion of PHUECs. Microscopy studies showed that ASGP-R traffics to the cell surface after gonococcal challenge. Co-localization of ASGP-R with gonococci was observed. As ASGP-R-mediated endocytosis is clathrin dependent, clathrin localization in PHUECs was examined after infection. Infected PHUECs showed increased clathrin recruitment and co-localization of clathrin and gonococci. Preincubating PHUECs in 0.3 M sucrose or monodansylcadaverine (MDC), which both inhibit clathrin-coated pit formation, resulted in decreased invasion. N. gonorrhoeae strain 1291 produces a single LOS glycoform that terminates with Gal(beta1-4)GlcNac(beta1-3)Gal(beta1-4)Glc (lacto-N-neotetraose). Invasion assays showed that strain 1291 invades significantly more than four isogenic mutants expressing truncated LOS. Sialylation of strain 1291 LOS inhibited invasion significantly. Preincubation of PHUECs in asialofetuin (ASF), an ASGP-R ligand, significantly reduced invasion. A dose-response reduction in invasion was observed in PHUECs preincubated with increasing concentrations of NaOH-deacylated 1291 LOS. These studies indicated that an interaction between lacto-N-neotetraose-terminal LOS and ASGP-R allows gonococcal entry into PHUECs.

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