Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Gc) must overcome the limitation of metals such as zinc to colonize mucosal surfaces in its obligate human host. While the zinc-binding nutritional immunity proteins calprotectin (S100A8/A9) and psoriasin (S100A7) are abundant in human cervicovaginal lavage fluid, Gc possesses TonB-dependent transporters TdfH and TdfJ that bind and extract zinc from the human version of these proteins, respectively. Here we investigated the contribution of zinc acquisition to Gc infection of epithelial cells of the female genital tract. We found that TdfH and TdfJ were dispensable for survival of strain FA1090 Gc that was associated with Ect1 human immortalized epithelial cells, when zinc was limited by calprotectin and psoriasin. In contrast, suspension- grown bacteria declined in viability under the same conditions. Exposure to murine calprotectin, which Gc cannot use as a zinc source, similarly reduced survival of suspension- grown Gc, but not Ect1-associated Gc. We ruled out epithelial cells as a contributor to the enhanced growth of cell-associated Gc under zinc limitation. Instead, we found that attachment to glass was sufficient to enhance bacterial growth when zinc was sequestered. We compared the transcriptional profiles of WT Gc adherent to glass coverslips or in suspension, when zinc was sequestered with murine calprotectin or provided in excess, from which we identified open reading frames that were increased by zinc sequestration in adherent Gc. One of these, ZnuA, was necessary but not sufficient for survival of Gc under zinc-limiting conditions. These results show that adherence protects Gc from zinc-dependent growth restriction by host nutritional immunity proteins.
- epithelial cells
- nutritional immunity