Federico Iovino 1 , 2 , Joo-Yeon Engelen-Lee 3 , Matthijs Brouwer 3 , Diederik van de Beek 3 , Arie van der Ende 3 , Merche Valls Seron 3 , Peter Mellroth 1 , 2 , Sandra Muschiol 1 , 2 , Jan Bergstrand 6 , Jerker Widengren 6 , Birgitta Henriques-Normark , 1 , 2 , 4 , 5
05 June 2017
Pneumococci are major causes of bacterial meningitis. Iovino et al. show that pneumococci invade the brain and pass the blood–brain barrier by interacting with the endothelial receptors pIgR and PECAM-1 recognizing the pneumococcal adhesin RrgA and PspC on the bacterial surface.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is the main cause of bacterial meningitis, a life-threating disease with a high case fatality rate despite treatment with antibiotics. Pneumococci cause meningitis by invading the blood and penetrating the blood–brain barrier (BBB). Using stimulated emission depletion (STED) super-resolution microscopy of brain biopsies from patients who died of pneumococcal meningitis, we observe that pneumococci colocalize with the two BBB endothelial receptors: polymeric immunoglobulin receptor (pIgR) and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule (PECAM-1). We show that the major adhesin of the pneumococcal pilus-1, RrgA, binds both receptors, whereas the choline binding protein PspC binds, but to a lower extent, only pIgR. Using a bacteremia-derived meningitis model and mutant mice, as well as antibodies against the two receptors, we prevent pneumococcal entry into the brain and meningitis development. By adding antibodies to antibiotic (ceftriaxone)-treated mice, we further reduce the bacterial burden in the brain. Our data suggest that inhibition of pIgR and PECAM-1 has the potential to prevent pneumococcal meningitis.