Heparin protects Opa+ Neisseria gonorrhoeae from the bactericidal action of normal human serum
Infection and Immunity
The pathobiological significance of lipooligosaccharide (LOS) and outer membrane opacity protein (Opa) changes in gonorrheal disease are poorly understood. We assessed variants of strain MS11mk with different LOS and Opa phenotypes for their liability to killing by normal human sera. LOS differences correlated with strikingly disparate susceptibilities to serum killing; LOSa variants were serum resistant, LOSb variants were serum sensitive, and sialylation of LOSb variants enhanced their
... hanced their survival (as reported previously). Opa phenotype had little influence on the killing of serum-sensitive LOSb cells that were incubated directly in normal human sera, but preincubation of Opa ؉ LOSb variants in heparin increased their serum resistance whereas Opa ؊ LOSb variants showed no change. Some Opa proteins conferred slightly higher resistance than others, but heparin preincubation increased serum resistance for variants expressing each of seven Opa proteins. These in vitro phenomena may relate to conditions within the male urethra where sulfate-containing proteoglycans are abundant and where antibody and complement may transude from blood plasma. The results suggest that the selective advantage for Opa ؉ Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria observed in vivo may reflect their ability to utilize host cell components to resist killing by host defenses.