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Infect Immun. 2013 Sep;81(9):3375-81. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00421-13. Epub 2013 Jul 1.

Identification of genes involved in Neisseria meningitidis colonization.

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INSERM U1002, Paris, France.


Neisseria meningitidis is a worldwide cause of meningitis and septicemia leading at least to 50,000 deaths every year. Nevertheless, N. meningitidis is also a commensal bacterium that asymptomatically colonizes the epithelial cells of the nasopharynx of 10 to 30% of healthy individuals. Occasionally, N. meningitidis crosses the nasopharyngeal barrier and enters the bloodstream. During bacteremia, N. meningitidis may adhere to endothelial cells of brain vessels and invade meninges. To identify the genes required for meningococcal host colonization, we screened a signature-tagged transposon mutagenesis library using an innovative in vitro colonization model in order to identify mutants displaying decreased capacity to colonize human epithelial cells. Approximately 1,600 defined insertion mutants of invasive serogroup C strain NEM8013 were screened. Candidate mutants were tested individually for quantification of bacterial biomass with confocal microscope and COMSTAT software. Five mutants were demonstrated to exhibit significantly decreased colonization ability. The identified genes, including narP and estD, appeared to be involved in adaptation to hypoxic conditions and stress resistance. Interestingly, the genes fadD1, nnrS, and NMV_2034 (encoding a putative thioredoxin), prior to this study, had not been shown to be involved in colonization. Therefore, we provide here insights into the meningococcal functions necessary for the bacterium to adapt to growth on host cells.

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