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.
© 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)