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Mol Microbiol. 1997 Dec;26(5):971-80.

Differential Opa specificities for CD66 receptors influence tissue interactions and cellular response to Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Biologie, Abteilung Infektionsbiologie, Tübingen, Germany.


The ability of all 11 variable opacity (Opa) proteins encoded by Neisseria gonorrhoeae MS11 to interact directly with the five CD66 antigens was determined. Transfected HeLa cell lines expressing individual CD66 antigens were infected with recombinant N. gonorrhoeae and Escherichia coli strains expressing defined Opas. Based upon the ability of these bacteria to bind and invade and to isolate specifically CD66 antigens from detergent-soluble extracts of the corresponding cell lines, distinct specificity groups of Opa interaction with CD66 were seen. Defining these specificity groups allowed us to assign a specific function for CD66a in the Opa-mediated interaction of gonococci with two different target cell types, which are both known to co-express multiple CD66 antigens. The competence of individual Opas to interact with CD66a was strictly correlated with their ability to induce an oxidative response by polymorphonuclear neutrophils. The same Opa specificity was observed for the level of gonococcal binding to primary endothelial cells after stimulation with TNFalpha, which was shown to increase the expression of CD66a rather than CD66e. As CD66e alone is expressed on other target tissues of gonococcal pathogenicity, Opa variation probably contributes to the cell tropism displayed by gonococci.

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