The proposed Atlantic Coast (AC) STI CRC is a highly integrated, multidisciplined alliance of experienced investigators who are committed to advancing basic and translational science in the area of Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Ng), Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) and Ng/Ct infections that will further our understanding of the pathogenesis of these sexually transmitted infections and lead to the development of new interventions. To meet these goals, we will address the following four programmatic specific aims.
Aim 1 is to define the immunobiology of Ng and Ng/Ct co-infection with respect to mechanisms of Ng-mediated immunosuppression and the mechanisms by which Ng and Ct evade or interact with effectors of the innate defense. Two novel Ng immunosuppressive pathways that interfere with dendritic cell (DC) function will be characterized. The hypothesis that these Ng pathways affect host responses to Chlamydia will also be tested. A vaginal proteome analysis will be performed using mouse models of single and dual infection to identify novel effectors that may limit or enhance infection and to assess the influence of reproductive hormones on the expression of host factors. We will also investigate the role of perforin-2, a membrane-bound pore-forming effector, in the intracellular biology of Ng, Ct and Ng/Chlamydia at the cellular level and during experimental murine infection.
Aim 2 is to develop tissue culture systems, improved animal models, and immunological systems for studying Ng/Ct confection and to accelerate product development. Tissue culture systems designed to promote Ng invasion through two distinct pathways and sophisticated microscopy will be utilized to examine the intracellular biology of Ng/Ct coinfected cells. Improved mouse models will be established using human transferrin-supplemented mice that are transgenic for the human carcinoembryonic antigen-related cellular adherence molecule (hCEACAM-1);these models will be used to identify potential biomarkers that can discriminate single and dual infections. To facilitate studies on the immunobiology of co-infection, in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo assays will be developed to examine the effect of Ng on DC-directed anti-Cm responses.
Aim 3 is to understand the genetic basis of the spread of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea. The effect of ceftriaxone resistance determinants on microbial fitness in vitro and in vivo will be tested and compensatory mutations that restore fitness will be identified.
Aim 4 is to develop a gonorrhea vaccine and novel therapies effective against both gonorrhea and Chlamydia infections. A promising Ng Tf receptor vaccine will be developed and the effect of a pre-existing Chlamydia infection on the efficacy of this vaccine will be assessed. Iron-chelators will be tested as a nutritional therapy and a prototype histone deacetylase inhibitor will be tested as a potentially effective epigenetic therapy that induces the expression f innate effectors and suppresses pathogen-induced inflammation.

Public Health Relevance

Over 200 million Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Ng) and sexually transmitted Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) infections occur worldwide each year. Concurrent infections are also common, yet little is known about the clinical aspects or pathogenesis of gonococcal/Chlamydia co-infection. The goals of the proposed Center are to further the understanding of the immunobiology of gonorrhea, Chlamydia infection, and gonorrhea/Chlamydia co-infections with the aim of developing novel immunotherapies and a gonorrhea vaccine. We will also investigate the genetic basis behind the spread of antibiotic resistance in Ng which is of global concern and threatens current control measures. Integrated throughout many projects within the Center is the development of innovative models for investigating different aspects of Ng/Ct co-infection, which heretofore have not been studied due in part to a lack of experimental systems. PROJECT 1: Gonococcal Modulation of Host Immune Responses During Single and Dual Infections Project Leader: Joseph Duncan DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis are two of the most common sexually transmitted pathogens in the world. N. gonorrhoeae depends on numerous, highly adapted host-pathogen interactions to persist in the human urogenital tract. Uncomplicated gonococcal infection of the urethra or cervix leads to limited, and non-protective, adaptive immune responses. The mechanisms by which N. gonorrhoeae evades host immunity are thought to include both antigenic variation and active manipulation of immune system signaling by the infecting bacteria. Our preliminary data demonstrates that N. gonorrhoeae inhibits the ability of antigen presenting cells to stimulate CD4+ T lymphocyte proliferation. N. gonorrhoeae accomplishes this through the shedding of outer membrane vesicles and anhydrous peptidoglycan fragments from its cell wall. Some C. trachomatis infected individuals appear to develop protective immunity to the infection. In animal models, CD4+ T lymphocytes directed towards Chlamydia antigens can mediate protective immunity in Chlamydia infection. Our preliminary data suggest that N. gonorrhoeae is able to cross suppress T lymphocyte proliferation directed towards Chlamydia antigens. In this proposal, we propose to identify the signaling mechanisms and consequences to the immune response that are activated by N. gonorrhoeae. Further we will determine the impact of N. gonorrhoeae-mediated immune suppression in both N. gonorrhoeae infection and N. gonorrhoeae/Chlamydia co-infection. Relevance: Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis are the most common bacterial sexually transmitted pathogens in the world and are commonly found as co-infecting pathogens. Both have developed mechanisms of immune evasion that aid in their persistence in the genital tract and transmission to sexual partners. This project seeks to determine the mechanisms by which N. gonorrhoeae suppresses the development of host adaptive immunity against both N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis during co-infection.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Program--Cooperative Agreements (U19)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAI1)
Program Officer
David, Hagit S
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Henry M. Jackson Fdn for the Adv Mil/Med
United States
Zip Code
Kandler, Justin L; Acevedo, Rosuany Vélez; Dickinson, Mary Kathryne et al. (2016) The genes that encode the gonococcal transferrin binding proteins, TbpB and TbpA, are differentially regulated by MisR under iron-replete and iron-depleted conditions. Mol Microbiol 102:137-51
Uzun, Alper; Sahin, Yavuz; Schuster, Jessica S et al. (2016) Structural and genomic variation in preterm birth. Pediatr Res 80:829-836
Shafer, William M (2016) Does the Cervicovaginal Microbiome Facilitate Transmission of Neisseria gonorrhoeae From Women to Men? Implications for Understanding Transmission of Gonorrhea and Advancing Vaccine Development. J Infect Dis 214:1615-1617
Kandler, Justin L; Holley, Concerta L; Reimche, Jennifer L et al. (2016) The MisR Response Regulator Is Necessary for Intrinsic Cationic Antimicrobial Peptide and Aminoglycoside Resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 60:4690-700
Russell, Ali N; Zheng, Xiaojing; O'Connell, Catherine M et al. (2016) Identification of Chlamydia trachomatis Antigens Recognized by T Cells From Highly Exposed Women Who Limit or Resist Genital Tract Infection. J Infect Dis 214:1884-1892
Zughaier, Susu M; Kandler, Justin L; Balthazar, Jacqueline T et al. (2015) Phosphoethanolamine Modification of Neisseria gonorrhoeae Lipid A Reduces Autophagy Flux in Macrophages. PLoS One 10:e0144347
Abrams, A Jeanine; Trees, David L; Nicholas, Robert A (2015) Complete Genome Sequences of Three Neisseria gonorrhoeae Laboratory Reference Strains, Determined Using PacBio Single-Molecule Real-Time Technology. Genome Announc 3: