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Microbiology. 2012 Mar;158(Pt 3):791-803. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.055020-0. Epub 2012 Jan 5.

Pathogenic Naegleria fowleri and non-pathogenic Naegleria lovaniensis exhibit differential adhesion to, and invasion of, extracellular matrix proteins.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Medicine, Richmond, VA 23298-0678, USA.


Naegleria fowleri and Naegleria lovaniensis are closely related free-living amoebae found in the environment. N. fowleri causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a rapidly fatal disease of the central nervous system, while N. lovaniensis is non-pathogenic. N. fowleri infection occurs when the amoebae access the nasal passages, attach to the nasal mucosa and its epithelial lining, and migrate to the brain. This process involves interaction with components of the host extracellular matrix (ECM). Since the ability to invade tissues can be a characteristic that distinguishes pathogenic from non-pathogenic amoebae, the objective of this study was to assess adhesion to, and invasion of, the ECM by these two related but distinct Naegleria species. N. fowleri exhibited a higher level of adhesion to the ECM components laminin-1, fibronectin and collagen I. Scanning electron microscopy revealed that N. fowleri attached on ECM substrata exhibited a spread-out appearance that included the presence of focal adhesion-like structures. Western immunoblotting revealed two integrin-like proteins for both species, but one of these, with a molecular mass of approximately 70 kDa, was detected at a higher level in N. fowleri. Confocal microscopy indicated that the integrin-like proteins co-localized to the focal adhesion-like structures. Furthermore, anti-integrin antibody decreased adhesion of N. fowleri to ECM components. Finally, N. fowleri disrupted 3D ECM scaffolds, while N. lovaniensis had a minimal effect. Collectively, these results indicate a distinction in adhesion to, and invasion of, ECM proteins between N. fowleri and N. lovaniensis.

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