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Infect Immun. 2009 Jan;77(1):292-9. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01071-08. Epub 2008 Oct 13.

Factor H-binding protein is important for meningococcal survival in human whole blood and serum and in the presence of the antimicrobial peptide LL-37.

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Molecular Genetics Unit, Novartis Vaccines, Via Fiorentina, 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.


Factor H-binding protein (fHBP; GNA1870) is one of the antigens of the recombinant vaccine against serogroup B Neisseria meningitidis, which has been developed using reverse vaccinology and is the basis of a meningococcal B vaccine entering phase III clinical trials. Binding of factor H (fH), an inhibitor of the complement alternative pathway, to fHBP enables N. meningitidis to evade killing by the innate immune system. All fHBP null mutant strains analyzed were sensitive to killing in ex vivo human whole blood and serum models of meningococcal bacteremia with respect to the isogenic wild-type strains. The fHBP mutant strains of MC58 and BZ83 (high fHBP expressors) survived in human blood and serum for less than 60 min (decrease of >2 log(10) CFU), while NZ98/254 (intermediate fHBP expressor) and 67/00 (low fHBP expressor) showed decreases of >1 log(10) CFU after 60 to 120 min of incubation. In addition, fHBP is important for survival in the presence of the antimicrobial peptide LL-37 (decrease of >3 log(10) CFU after 2 h of incubation), most likely due to electrostatic interactions between fHBP and the cationic LL-37 molecule. Hence, the expression of fHBP by N. meningitidis strains is important for survival in human blood and human serum and in the presence of LL-37, even at low levels. The functional significance of fHBP in mediating resistance to the human immune response, in addition to its widespread distribution and its ability to induce bactericidal antibodies, indicates that it is an important component of the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.

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