First published October 29, 2019 - More info
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection with 87 million new cases per year globally. Increasing antibiotic resistance has severely limited treatment options. A mechanism that Neisseria gonorrhoeae uses to evade complement attack is binding of the complement inhibitor C4b-binding protein (C4BP). We screened 107 PorB1a and 83 PorB1b clinical isolates randomly selected from a Swedish strain collection over the last 10 years and noted that 96/107 (89.7%) PorB1a and 16/83 (19.3%) PorB1b bound C4BP; C4BP binding significantly correlated with the ability to evade complement-dependent killing (r = 0.78; p<0.0001). We designed two chimeric proteins that fused C4BP domains to the backbone of immunoglobulins IgG or IgM (C4BP-IgG; C4BP-IgM) with the aim of enhancing complement activation and killing of gonococci. Both proteins bound gonococci (Kd C4BP-IgM = 2.4 nM; Kd C4BP-IgG 981 nM), but only hexameric C4BP-IgM efficiently out-competed heptameric C4BP from bacterial surface resulting in enhanced complement deposition and bacterial killing. Furthermore, C4BP-IgM significantly attenuated the duration and burden of colonization of two C4BP-binding gonococcal isolates, but not a C4BP non-binding strain in the mouse vaginal colonization model using human factor H/C4BP transgenic mice. Our pre-clinical data present C4BP-IgM as an adjunctive to conventional antimicrobials for the treatment of gonorrhea.