The sweet side of the pathogenicNeisseria: the role of glycan interactions in colonisation and disease

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Glycomics is a rapidly growing field that focuses on the structure and function of carbohydrates (glycans) in biological systems. Glycan interactions play a major role in infectious disease, at all stages of colonisation and disease progression. Neisseria meningitidis, the cause of meningococcal sepsis and meningitis, and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea, are responsible for significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Neisseria meningitidis displays a range of surface glycosylations including capsule polysaccharide, lipooligosaccharide and O-linked glycoproteins. While N. gonorrhoeae does not have a capsule, it does express both lipooligosaccharide and O-linked glycoproteins. Neisseria gonorrhoeae also has the ability to scavenge host sialic acids, while several N. meningitidis serogroups can synthesise sialic acid. Surface expressed sialic acid is key in serum resistance and survival in the host. On the host side, the pathogenic Neisseria protein adhesins such as Opc and NHBA bind to host glycans for adherence and colonisation of host cells. Essentially, from both the bacterial and host perspective, glycan interactions are fundamental in colonisation and disease of pathogenic Neisseria. The key aspects of glycobiology of the pathogenic Neisseria are reviewed herein.

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