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Cell. 1997 Mar 21;88(6):811-21.

Neural targeting of Mycobacterium leprae mediated by the G domain of the laminin-alpha2 chain.

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Laboratory of Molecular Infectious Diseases, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


We report that the molecular basis of the neural tropism of Mycobacterium leprae is attributable to the specific binding of M. leprae to the laminin-alpha2 (LN-alpha2) chain on Schwann cell-axon units. Using recombinant fragments of LN-alpha2 (rLN-alpha2), the M. leprae-binding site was localized to the G domain. rLN-alpha2G mediated M. leprae binding to cell lines and to sciatic nerves of dystrophic dy/dy mice lacking LN-alpha2, but expressing laminin receptors. Anti-beta4 integrin antibody attenuated rLN-alpha2G-mediated M. leprae adherence, suggesting that M. leprae interacts with cells by binding to beta4 integrin via an LN-alpha2G bridge. Our results indicate a novel role for the G domain of LN-2 in infection and reveal a model in which a host-derived bridging molecule determines nerve tropism of a pathogen.

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