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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2009 Dec 8;3(12):e560. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0000560.

Comparative transcriptional and translational analysis of leptospiral outer membrane protein expression in response to temperature.

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Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Structural and Functional Microbial Genomics, Department of Microbiology, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.



Leptospirosis is a global zoonosis affecting millions of people annually. Transcriptional changes in response to temperature were previously investigated using microarrays to identify genes potentially expressed upon host entry. Past studies found that various leptospiral outer membrane proteins are differentially expressed at different temperatures. However, our microarray studies highlighted a divergence between protein abundance and transcript levels for some proteins. Given the abundance of post-transcriptional expression control mechanisms, this finding highlighted the importance of global protein analysis systems.


To complement our previous transcription study, we evaluated differences in the proteins of the leptospiral outer membrane fraction in response to temperature upshift. Outer membrane protein-enriched fractions from Leptospira interrogans grown at 30 degrees C or overnight upshift to 37 degrees C were isolated and the relative abundance of each protein was determined by iTRAQ analysis coupled with two-dimensional liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry (2-DLC/MS-MS). We identified 1026 proteins with 99% confidence; 27 and 66 were present at elevated and reduced abundance respectively. Protein abundance changes were compared with transcriptional differences determined from the microarray studies. While there was some correlation between the microarray and iTRAQ data, a subset of genes that showed no differential expression by microarray was found to encode temperature-regulated proteins. This set of genes is of particular interest as it is likely that regulation of their expression occurs post-transcriptionally, providing an opportunity to develop hypotheses about the molecular dynamics of the outer membrane of Leptospira in response to changing environments.


This is the first study to compare transcriptional and translational responses to temperature shift in L. interrogans. The results thus provide an insight into the mechanisms used by L. interrogans to adapt to conditions encountered in the host and to cause disease. Our results suggest down-regulation of protein expression in response to temperature, and decreased expression of outer membrane proteins may facilitate minimal interaction with host immune mechanisms.

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