Leptospirosis is an overlooked zoonotic disease caused by pathogenic Leptospira depended on virulence of Leptospira and the host–pathogen interaction. Kidney is the major organ infected by Leptospira which causes tubulointerstitial nephritis. Leptospira outer membrane contains several virulence factors and an outer membrane protein A (OmpA) like protein (Loa22) is essential for virulence. Pull-down assays suggested that Loa22 was a potential Toll-Like Receptor 2 (TLR2) binding candidates from pathogenic Leptospira. Confocal microscopy was employed to observe the co-localization of TLR2 and Loa22-LPGN (Leptospira peptidoglycan) complexes. Atomic force microscopy (AFM), side-directed mutagenesis, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) were performed to investigate the affinity between rLoa22, LPGN, and TLR2. Real time PCR was applied to measure the cytokines expression. Downstream signal transduction components were verified by western blot to evaluate the gene regulations. Mutation of two Loa22 key residues (Asp122 and Arg143) attenuated the affinities for LPGN. rLoa22-LPGN complexes were observed to co-localize with TLR2 and provoked inflammatory responses including CXCL8/IL8, hCCL2/MCP-1, and hTNF-α. Affinity studies suggested that Loa22-LPGN complexes elevated the affinity to TLR2 as compared to Loa22 protein. Downstream signals from TLR2 including p38, ERK, and JNK were regulated under rLoa22-LPGN complexes treatments. This study identified LPGN mediates interactions between Loa22 and TLR2 and induces downstream signals to trigger inflammatory responses. rLoa22-LPGN-TLR2 complexes reveal a novel binding mechanism for the innate immune system.
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