Neisseria meningitidis is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis and septicemia, affecting infants and adults worldwide. N. meningitidis is also a common inhabitant of the human nasopharynx and, as such, is highly adapted to its niche. During bacteremia, N. meningitidis gains access to the blood compartment, where it adheres to endothelial cells of blood vessels and causes dramatic vascular damage. Colonization of the nasopharyngeal niche and communication with the different human cell types is a major issue of the N. meningitidis life cycle that is poorly understood. Here, highly saturated random transposon insertion libraries of N. meningitidis were engineered, and the fitness of mutations during routine growth and that of colonization of endothelial and epithelial cells in a flow device were assessed in a transposon insertion site sequencing (Tn-seq) analysis. This allowed the identification of genes essential for bacterial growth and genes specifically required for host cell colonization. In addition, after having identified the small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) located in intergenic regions, the phenotypes associated with mutations in those sRNAs were defined. A total of 383 genes and 8 intergenic regions containing sRNA candidates were identified to be essential for growth, while 288 genes and 33 intergenic regions containing sRNA candidates were found to be specifically required for host cell colonization.
Importance: Meningococcal meningitis is a common cause of meningitis in infants and adults. Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) is also a commensal bacterium of the nasopharynx and is carried by 3 to 30% of healthy humans. Under some unknown circumstances, N. meningitidis is able to invade the bloodstream and cause either meningitis or a fatal septicemia known as purpura fulminans. The onset of symptoms is sudden, and death can follow within hours. Although many meningococcal virulence factors have been identified, the mechanisms that allow the bacterium to switch from the commensal to pathogen state remain unknown. Therefore, we used a Tn-seq strategy coupled to high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies to find genes for proteins used by N. meningitidis to specifically colonize epithelial cells and primary brain endothelial cells. We identified 383 genes and 8 intergenic regions containing sRNAs essential for growth and 288 genes and 33 intergenic regions containing sRNAs required specifically for host cell colonization.
Copyright © 2016 Capel et al.