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Mol Microbiol. 2013 Sep;89(5):842-56. doi: 10.1111/mmi.12311. Epub 2013 Aug 1.

A surface-exposed neuraminidase affects complement resistance and virulence of the oral spirochaete Treponema denticola.

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Department of Oral Biology, the State University of New York at Buffalo, New York, 14214, USA.


Neuraminidases (sialidases) catalyse the removal of terminal sialic acid from glycoconjugates. Bacterial pathogens often utilize neuraminidases to scavenge host sialic acid, which can be utilized either as a nutrient or as a decorating molecule to disguise themselves from host immune attacks. Herein, a putative neuraminidase (TDE0471) was identified in Treponema denticola, an oral spirochaete associated with human periodontitis. TDE0471 is a cell surface-exposed exo-neuraminidase that removes sialic acid from human serum proteins; it is required for T.denticola to grow in a medium that mimics gingival crevice fluid, suggesting that the spirochaete may use sialic acid as a nutrient in vivo. TDE0471 protects T.denticola from serum killing by preventing the deposition of membrane attack complexes on the bacterial cell surface. Animal studies revealed that a TDE0471-deficient mutant is less virulent than its parental wild-type strain in BALB/C mice. However, it causes a level of tissue damage similar to the wild type in complement-deficient B6.129S4-C3(tm1) (Crr) /J mice albeit the damage caused by both bacterial strains is more severe in these transgenic mice. Based on these results, we propose that T.denticola has evolved a strategy to scavenge host sialic acid using its neuraminidase, which allows the spirochaete to acquire nutrients and evade complement killing.

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