The role of immunoglobulins and their transporters in urogenital Chlamydial infections

Armitage, Charles William (2012) The role of immunoglobulins and their transporters in urogenital Chlamydial infections. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Chlamydia trachomatis infections of the male and female reproductive tracts are the world's leading sexually transmitted bacterial disease, and can lead to damaging pathology, scarring and infertility. The resolution of chlamydial infection requires the development of adaptive immune responses to infection, and includes cell-mediated and humoral immunity. Whilst cluster of differentiation (CD)4+ T cells are known to be essential in clearance of infection [1], they are also associated with immune cell infiltration, autoimmunity and infertility in the testes [2-3]. Conversely, antibodies are less associated with inflammation, are readily transported into the reproductive tracts, and can offer lumenal neutralization of chlamydiae prior to infection.

Antibodies, or immunoglobulins (Ig), play a supportive role in the resolution of chlamydial infections, and this thesis sought to define the function of IgA and IgG, against a variety of chlamydial antigens expressed during the intracellular and extracellular stages of the chlamydial developmental cycle. Transport of IgA and IgG into the mucosal lumen is facilitated by receptor-mediated transcytosis yet the expression profile (under normal conditions and during urogenital chlamydial infection) of the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor (pIgR) and the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) remains unknown.

The expression profile of pIgR and FcRn in the murine male reproductive tract was found to be polarized to the lower and upper reproductive tract tissues respectively. This demonstrates that the two receptors have a tissue tropism, which must be considered when targeting pathogens that colonize different sites. In contrast, the expression of pIgR and FcRn in the female mouse was found to be distributed in both the upper and lower reproductive tracts. When urogenitally infected with Chlamydia muridarum, both male and female reproductive tracts up-regulated expression of pIgR and down-regulated expression of FcRn. Unsurprisingly, the up-regulation of pIgR increased the concentration of IgA in the lumen. However, down-regulation of FcRn, prevented IgG uptake and led to an increase or pooling of IgG in lumenal secretions.

As previous studies have identified the importance of pIgR-mediated delivery of IgA, as well as the potential of IgA to bind and neutralize intracellular pathogens, IgA against a variety of chlamydial antigens was investigated. The protection afforded by IgA against the extracellular antigen major outer membrane protein (MOMP), was found to be dependent on pIgR expression in vitro and in vivo. It was also found that in the absence of pIgR, no protection was afforded to mice previously immunized with MOMP. The protection afforded from polyclonal IgA against the intracellular chlamydial antigens; inclusion membrane protein A (IncA), inclusion membrane proteins (IncMem) and secreted chlamydial protease-like activity factor (CPAF) were produced and investigated in vitro.

Antigen-specific intracellular IgA was found to bind to the respective antigen within the infected cell, but did not significantly reduce inclusion formation (p > 0.05). This suggests that whilst IgA specific for the selected antigens was transported by pIgR to the chlamydial inclusion, it was unable to prevent growth. Similarly, immunization of male mice with intracellular chlamydial antigens (IncA or IncMem), followed by depletion CD4+ T cells, and subsequent urogenital C. muridarum challenge, provided minimal pIgR-mediated protection. Wild type male mice immunized with IncA showed a 57 % reduction (p < 0.05), and mice deficient in pIgR showed a 35 % reduction (p < 0.05) in reproductive tract chlamydial burden compared to control antigen, and in the absence of CD4+ T cells. This suggests that pIgR and secretory IgA (SIgA) were playing a protective role (21 % pIgR-mediated) in unison with another antigen-specific immune mechanism (36 %). Interestingly, IgA generated during a primary respiratory C. muridarum infection did not provide a significant amount of protection to secondary urogenital C. muridarum challenge. Together, these data suggest that IgA specific for an extracellular antigen (MOMP) can play a strong protective role in chlamydial infections, and that IgA targeting intracellular antigens is also effective but dependent on pIgR expression in tissues. However, whilst not investigated here, IgA targeting and blocking other intracellular chlamydial antigens, that are more essential for replication or type III secretion, may be more efficacious in subunit vaccines.

Recently, studies have demonstrated that IgG can neutralize influenza virus by trafficking IgG-bound virus to lysosomes [4]. We sought to determine if this process could also traffic chlamydial antigens for degradation by lysosomes, despite Chlamydia spp. actively inhibiting fusion with the host endocytic pathway. As observed in pIgR-mediated delivery of anti-IncA IgA, FcRn similarly transported IgG specific for IncA which bound the inclusion membrane. Interestingly, FcRn-mediated delivery of anti-IncA IgG significantly decreased inclusion formation by 36 % (p < 0.01), and induced aberrant inclusion morphology. This suggests that unlike IgA, IgG can facilitate additional host cellular responses which affect the intracellular niche of chlamydial growth. Fluorescence microscopy revealed that IgG also bound the inclusion, but unlike influenza studies, did not induce the recruitment of lysosomes. Notably, anti-IncA IgG recruited sequestosomes to the inclusion membrane, markers of the ubiquitin/proteasome pathway and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I loading. To determine if the protection against C. muridarum infection afforded by IncA IgG in vitro translated in vivo, wild type mice and mice deficient in functional FcRn and MHC-I, were immunized, depleted of CD4+, and urogenitally infected with C. muridarum. Unlike in pIgR-deficient mice, the protection afforded from IncA immunization was completely abrogated in mice lacking functional FcRn and MHC-I/CD8+. Thus, both anti-IncA IgA and IgG can bind the inclusion in a pIgR and FcRn-mediated manner, respectively. However, only IgG mediates a higher reduction in chlamydial infection in vitro and in vivo suggesting more than steric blocking of IncA had occurred.

Unlike anti-MOMP IgA, which reduced chlamydial infection of epithelial cells and male mouse tissues, IgG was found to enhance infectivity in vitro, and in vivo. Opsonization of EBs with MOMP-IgG enhanced inclusion formation of epithelial cells in a MOMP-IgG dose-dependent and FcRn-dependent manner. When MOMP-IgG opsonized EBs were inoculated into the vagina of female mice, a small but non-significant (p > 0.05) enhancement of cervicovaginal C. muridarum shedding was observed three days post infection in mice with functional FcRn. Interestingly, infection with opsonized EBs reduced the intensity of the peak of infection (day six) but protracted the duration of infection by 60 % in wild type mice only. Infection with EBs opsonized in IgG also significantly increased (p < 0.05) hydrosalpinx formation in the oviducts and induced lymphocyte infiltration uterine horns. As MOMP is an immunodominant antigen, and is widely used in vaccines, the ability of IgG specific to extracellular chlamydial antigens to enhance infection and induce pathology needs to be considered.

Together, these data suggest that immunoglobulins play a dichotomous role in chlamydial infections, and are dependent on antigen specificity, FcRn and pIgR expression. FcRn was found to be highly expressed in upper male reproductive tract, whilst pIgR was dominantly expressed in the lower reproductive tract. Conversely, female mice expressed FcRn and pIgR in both the lower and upper reproductive tracts. In response to a normal chlamydial infection, pIgR is up-regulated increasing secretory IgA release, but FcRn is down-regulated preventing IgG uptake. Similarly to other studies [5-6], we demonstrate that IgA and IgG generated during primary chlamydial infections plays a minor role in recall immunity, and that antigen-specific subunit vaccines can offer more protection. We also show that both IgA and IgG can be used to target intracellular chlamydial antigens, but that IgG is more effective. Finally, IgA against the extracellular antigen MOMP can afford protection, whist IgG plays a deleterious role by increasing infectivity and inducing damaging immunopathology. Further investigations with additional antigens or combination subunit vaccines will enhance our understanding the protection afforded by antibodies against intracellular and extracellular pathogenic antigens, and help improve the development of an efficacious chlamydial vaccine.

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ID Code: 63693
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Beagley, Kenneth
Keywords: Chlamydia trachomatis, Chlamydia muridarum, immunoglobulin (Ig), IgG, IgA, neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn), polymeric immunoglobulin receptor (pIgR), reproductive tract, vaccine design, MOMP, IncA, CPAF
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Biomedical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 24 Oct 2013 04:18
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2015 00:28

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