A novel epigenetic regulator associated with the hypervirulent Neisseria meningitidis clonal complex 41/44
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Neisseria meningitidis is a major cause of septicemia and meningitis. The hypervirulent clonal complex 41/44 (cc41/44) has emerged as the predominant cause of serogroup B meningococcal disease, having been responsible for recent outbreaks and epidemics worldwide. However, the meningococcal factors that enable transition from asymptomatic carriage to rapidly progressing disease are poorly understood. Here we describe a novel phase-variable DNA methyltransferase, ModD, which was identified in the genome sequence of a New Zealand epidemic isolate. Investigation of the distribution of modD in the wider meningococcal population, by PCR and sequence analysis of genetically diverse N. meningitidis strains, revealed the presence of modD in 20/27 strains in cc41/44, but in only 2/47 strains from other clonal complexes, indicating a significant association of modD with cc41/44 (Fisher's exact P value=3ױ0-10). The modD gene contains 5'-ACCGA-3' repeats that mediate phase variation, leading to reversible on/off switching of modD expression. Microarray analysis of modD-on/off variants revealed that ModD regulates expression of multiple genes involved in colonization, infection, and protection against host defenses, with increased catalase expression in the modD-on variant conferring increased resistance to oxidative stress. The modulation of gene expression via the ModD phase-variable regulon (phasevarion), and its significant association with the cc41/44, suggest a role in the fitness and/or pathogenesis of strains belonging to the cc41/44.-Seib, K. L., Pigozzi, E., Muzzi, A., Gawthorne, J. A., Delany, I., Jennings, M. P., Rappuoli, R. A novel epigenetic regulator associated with the hypervirulent Neisseria meningitidis clonal complex 41/44.
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Medical Microbiology not elsewhere classified