Microbial capsular antigens are effective vaccines but are chemically and immunologically diverse, resulting in a major barrier to their use against multiple pathogens. A β-(1→6)-linked poly-N-acetyl-d-glucosamine (PNAG) surface capsule is synthesized by four proteins encoded in genetic loci designated intercellular adhesion in Staphylococcus aureus or polyglucosamine in selected Gram-negative bacterial pathogens. We report that many microbial pathogens lacking an identifiable intercellular adhesion or polyglucosamine locus produce PNAG, including Gram-positive, Gram-negative, and fungal pathogens, as well as protozoa, e.g., Trichomonas vaginalis, Plasmodium berghei, and sporozoites and blood-stage forms of Plasmodium falciparum. Natural antibody to PNAG is common in humans and animals and binds primarily to the highly acetylated glycoform of PNAG but is not protective against infection due to lack of deposition of complement opsonins. Polyclonal animal antibody raised to deacetylated glycoforms of PNAG and a fully human IgG1 monoclonal antibody that both bind to native and deacetylated glycoforms of PNAG mediated complement-dependent opsonic or bactericidal killing and protected mice against local and/or systemic infections by Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Listeria monocytogenes, Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B, Candida albicans, and P. berghei ANKA, and against colonic pathology in a model of infectious colitis. PNAG is also a capsular polysaccharide for Neisseria gonorrhoeae and nontypable Hemophilus influenzae, and protects cells from environmental stress. Vaccination targeting PNAG could contribute to immunity against serious and diverse prokaryotic and eukaryotic pathogens, and the conserved production of PNAG suggests that it is a critical factor in microbial biology.
Keywords: animal models; carbohydrates; immunotherapy; infectious diseases; malaria.