Dual Pili Post-translational Modifications Synergize to Mediate Meningococcal Adherence to Platelet Activating Factor Receptor on Human Airway Cells
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Pili of pathogenic Neisseria are major virulence factors associated with adhesion, twitching motility, auto-aggregation, and DNA transformation. Pili of N. meningitidis are subject to several different post-translational modifications. Among these pilin modifications, the presence of phosphorylcholine (ChoP) and a glycan on the pilin protein are phase-variable (subject to high frequency, reversible on/off switching of expression). In this study we report the location of two ChoP modifications on the C-terminus of N. meningitidis pilin. We show that the surface accessibility of ChoP on pili is affected by phase variable changes to the structure of the pilin-linked glycan. We identify for the first time that the platelet activating factor receptor (PAFr) is a key, early event receptor for meningococcal adherence to human bronchial epithelial cells and tissue, and that synergy between the pilin-linked glycan and ChoP post-translational modifications is required for pili to optimally engage PAFr to mediate adherence to human airway cells.
Copyright 2013 Jen et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License CCAL. (http://www.plos.org/journals/license.html)