Meningococcus Hijacks a β2-adrenoceptor/β-Arrestin pathway to cross brain microvasculature endothelium

Cell. 2010 Dec 23;143(7):1149-60. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2010.11.035.


Following pilus-mediated adhesion to human brain endothelial cells, meningococcus (N. meningitidis), the bacterium causing cerebrospinal meningitis, initiates signaling cascades, which eventually result in the opening of intercellular junctions, allowing meningeal colonization. The signaling receptor activated by the pathogen remained unknown. We report that N. meningitidis specifically stimulates a biased β2-adrenoceptor/β-arrestin signaling pathway in endothelial cells, which ultimately traps β-arrestin-interacting partners, such as the Src tyrosine kinase and junctional proteins, under bacterial colonies. Cytoskeletal reorganization mediated by β-arrestin-activated Src stabilizes bacterial adhesion to endothelial cells, whereas β-arrestin-dependent delocalization of junctional proteins results in anatomical gaps used by bacteria to penetrate into tissues. Activation of β-adrenoceptor endocytosis with specific agonists prevents signaling events downstream of N. meningitidis adhesion and inhibits bacterial crossing of the endothelial barrier. The identification of the mechanism used for hijacking host cell signaling machineries opens perspectives for treatment and prevention of meningococcal infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arrestins / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Brain / microbiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Endothelial Cells / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Meningococcal Infections / metabolism*
  • Meningococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Neisseria meningitidis / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • beta-Arrestins


  • Arrestins
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta
  • beta-Arrestins