Characterization of MDAΦ, a temperate filamentous bacteriophage of Neisseria meningitidis

Microbiology (Reading). 2016 Feb;162(2):268-282. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.000215. Epub 2015 Nov 24.


The mechanism by which Neisseria meningitidis becomes invasive is not well understood. Comparative genomics identified the presence of an 8 kb island in strains belonging to invasive clonal complexes. This island was designated MDA for meningococcal disease associated. MDA is highly conserved among meningococcal isolates and its analysis revealed a genomic organization similar to that of a filamentous prophage such as CTXΦ of Vibrio cholerae. Subsequent molecular investigations showed that the MDA island has indeed the characteristics of a filamentous prophage, which can enter into a productive cycle and is secreted using the type IV pilus (tfp) secretin PilQ. At least three genes of the prophage are necessary for the formation of the replicative cytoplasmic form (orf1, orf2 and orf9). Immunolabelling of the phage with antibodies against the major capsid protein, ORF4, confirmed that filamentous particles, about 1200 nm long, covered with ORF4 are present at the bacterial surface forming bundles in some places and interacting with pili. The MDA bacteriophage is able to infect different N. meningitidis strains, using the type IV pili as a receptor via an interaction with the adsorption protein ORF6. Altogether, these data demonstrate that the MDA island encodes a functional prophage able to produce infectious filamentous phage particles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attachment Sites, Microbiological / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / virology
  • Inovirus / genetics*
  • Meningococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Neisseria meningitidis / genetics*
  • Neisseria meningitidis / pathogenicity
  • Neisseria meningitidis / virology*
  • Prophages / genetics*
  • Receptors, Virus / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Viral
  • Receptors, Virus