Infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae (N. gonorrhoeae) can trigger an intense local inflammatory response at the site of infection, yet there is little specific immune response or development of immune memory. Gonococcal surface epitopes are known to undergo antigenic variation; however, this is unlikely to explain the weak immune response to infection since individuals can be re-infected by the same serotype. Previous studies have demonstrated that the colony opacity-associated (Opa) proteins on the N. gonorrhoeae surface can bind human carcinoembryonic antigen-related cellular adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1) on CD4+ T cells to suppress T cell activation and proliferation. Interesting in this regard, N. gonorrhoeae infection is associated with impaired HIV-1 (human immunodeficiency virus type 1)-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses and with transient increases in plasma viremia in HIV-1-infected patients, suggesting that N. gonorrhoeae may also subvert immune responses to co-pathogens. Since dendritic cells (DCs) are professional antigen presenting cells (APCs) that play a key role in the induction of an adaptive immune response, we investigated the effects of N. gonorrhoeae Opa proteins on human DC activation and function. While morphological changes reminiscent of DC maturation were evident upon N. gonorrhoeae infection, we observed a marked downregulation of DC maturation marker CD83 when the gonococci expressing CEACAM1-specific OpaCEA, but not other Opa variants. Consistent with a gonococcal-induced defect in maturation, OpaCEA binding to CEACAM1 reduced the DCs' capacity to stimulate an allogeneic T cell proliferative response. Moreover, OpaCEA-expressing N. gonorrhoeae showed the potential to impair DC-dependent development of specific adaptive immunity, since infection with OpaCEA-positive gonococci suppressed the ability of DCs to stimulate HIV-1-specific memory CTL responses. These results reveal a novel mechanism to explain why infection of N. gonorrhoeae fails to trigger an effective specific immune response or develop immune memory, and may affect the potent synergy between gonorrhea and HIV-1 infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)