Meningococcal internalization into human cells is likely to be a consequence of meningococcal adhesion to human epithelial and endothelial cells. Here, we identified three transposon mutants of Neisseria meningitidis that were primarily defective in the internalization of human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMEC), with insertions occurring in the gltT (a sodium-independent L-glutamate transporter) gene or its neighboring gene, NMB1964 (unknown function). NMB1964 was tentatively named gltM in this study because of the presence of a mammalian cell entry (MCE)-related domain in the deduced amino acid sequences. The null ΔgltT-ΔgltM N. meningitidis mutant was also defective in the internalization into human umbilical vein endothelial cells and the human lung carcinoma epithelial cell line A549, and the defect was suppressed by transcomplementation of the mutants with gltT +-gltM+ genes. The intracellular survival of the ΔgltT-ΔgltM mutant in HBMEC was not largely different from that of the wild-type strain under our experimental conditions. Introduction of a1-bp deletion and amber or ochre mutations in gltT-gltM genes resulted in the loss of efficient internalization into HBMEC. The defect in meningococcal internalization into HBMEC and L-glutamate uptake in the ΔgltT-ΔgltM mutant were suppressed only in strains expressing both GltT and GltM proteins. The efficiency of meningococcal invasion to HBMEC decreased under L-glutamate-depleted conditions. Furthermore, ezrin, a key membrane-cytoskeleton linker, accumulated beneath colonies of the gltT+-gltM+ N. meningitidis strain but not of the ΔgltT-ΔgltM mutant. These findings suggest that L-glutamate influx via the GltT-GltM L-glutamate ABC transporter serves as a cue for N. meningitidis internalization into host cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases