The effect of iron availability on transcription of the Neisseria meningitidis fHbp gene varies among clonal complexes
Sanders H., Brehony C., Maiden MCJ., Vipond C., Feavers IM.
Factor H binding protein (fHbp) is a major antigenic component of novel vaccines designed to protect against meningococcal disease. Prediction of the potential coverage of these vaccines is difficult, as fHbp is antigenically variable and levels of expression differ among isolates. Transcriptional regulation of the fHbp gene is poorly understood, although evidence suggests that oxygen availability is involved. In this study iron accessibility was found to affect fHbp transcription. However, regulation differed among meningococcal clonal complexes (ccs). For the majority of isolates, increased iron concentrations upregulated transcription. This effect was enhanced by the presence of a 181 bp insertion element upstream of fHbp, associated with isolates belonging to cc4 and cc5. Conversely, meningococci belonging to cc32 showed iron-repressed control of fHbp, as regulation was dominated by cotranscription with the iron-repressed upstream gene cbbA. These results highlight the complexity of fHbp regulation and demonstrate that control of transcription can vary among genetic lineages. © 2012 SGM.