A common gene pool for the Neisseria FetA antigen.
Bennett JS., Thompson EA., Kriz P., Jolley KA., Maiden MC.
Meningococcal FetA is an iron-regulated, immunogenic outer membrane protein and vaccine component. The most diverse region of this protein is a previously defined variable region (VR) that has been shown to be immunodominant. In this analysis, a total of 275 Neisseria lactamica isolates, collected during studies of nasopharyngeal bacterial carriage in infants, were examined for the presence of a fetA gene. The fetA VR nucleotide sequence was determined for 217 of these isolates, with fetA apparently absent from 58 isolates, the majority of which belonged to the ST-624 clonal complex. The VR in N. lactamica was compared to the same region in N. meningitidis, N. gonorrhoeae, and a number of other commensal Neisseria. Identical fetA variable region sequences were identified among commensal and pathogenic Neisseria, suggesting a common gene pool, differing from other antigens in this respect. Carriage of commensal Neisseria species, such as N. lactamica, that express FetA may be involved in the development of natural immunity to meningococcal disease.