Gonorrhea Manipulates Protective Barrier to Infect Female Reproductive Tract

April 24th 2017
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor

Bacterium breaks cell connections that form the protective lining to modulate infection in the endocervix.

New findings provide insight into the mechanism by which the bacteriumNeisseria gonorrhoeaepenetrates the mucosal barrier function to infect the female reproductive tract with gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea is asexually transmitted diseasethat occurs whenN.gonorrhoeaeinfects the protective inner lining of human genital tissues.

In women, the endocervix serves as the primary infection site for the bacteria, but the mechanisms by whichN.gonorrhoeaepenetrates the lining was unclear.

In a new study published inPLOS Pathogens, investigators developed a novel model using tissue samples obtained from the human endocervix. Typically, mouse models are used to study gonorrhea, but these were inadequate for the study.

The investigators infected the endocervix tissue, as well as lab-grown cells that were the same as those that line the endocervix, withN.gonorrhoeae. Next, they used a variety of molecular and imaging techniques to examine the infection mechanism.

The results of the study showed thatN.gonorrhoeaecan penetrate the endocervix lining by interfering with the protective process.

Normally, infected cells in the lining can be shed and disposed of without breaking the connections between cells and the lining that form the protective barrier. However,N.gonorrhoeaeappears to break the connections and induce cell shedding that opens paths for penetration without reducing its ability to adhere to and invade the cells on the lining.

The findings indicated thatN.gonorrhoeaedisrupts the cellular connections and cell shedding by promoting activation and accumulation of non-muscle myosin II.

N.gonorrhoeaecan either inhibit or promote the penetration mechanism depending on the genes being expressed by the bacteria at any given time.

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