Identification of a Monoclonal Antibody Against Pneumococcal Pilus 1 Ancillary Protein Impairing Bacterial Adhesion to Human Epithelial Cells

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The adhesion of Streptococcus pneumoniae is a key step during colonization of human respiratory tract mucosae. Here we demonstrate that pneumococcal type I pilus significantly increases the adhesiveness of poorly adhering highly capsulated strains in vitro. Interestingly, preincubation of bacteria with antibodies against the major pilus backbone subunit (RrgB) or the adhesin component (RrgA) impaired pneumococcal association to human epithelial cells. Screening for anti-RrgA monoclonal antibodies specifically affecting the adhesive capacity of S. pneumoniae led to the identification of the monoclonal 11B9/61 antibody, which greatly reduced pilus-dependent cell contact. Proteomic-based epitope mapping of 11B9/61 monoclonal antibody revealed a well-exposed epitope on the D2 domain of RrgA as the target of this functional antibody. The data presented here confirm the importance of pilus I for S. pneumoniae pathogenesis and the potential use of antipilus antibodies to prevent bacterial colonization.

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