PloS one

Bioinformatic Analysis of Chlamydia trachomatis Polymorphic Membrane Proteins PmpE, PmpF, PmpG and PmpH as Potential Vaccine Antigens.

PMID 26131720


Chlamydia trachomatis is the most important infectious cause of infertility in women with important implications in public health and for which a vaccine is urgently needed. Recent immunoproteomic vaccine studies found that four polymorphic membrane proteins (PmpE, PmpF, PmpG and PmpH) are immunodominant, recognized by various MHC class II haplotypes and protective in mouse models. In the present study, we aimed to evaluate genetic and protein features of Pmps (focusing on the N-terminal 600 amino acids where MHC class II epitopes were mapped) in order to understand antigen variation that may emerge following vaccine induced immune selection. We used several bioinformatics platforms to study: i) Pmps' phylogeny and genetic polymorphism; ii) the location and distribution of protein features (GGA(I, L)/FxxN motifs and cysteine residues) that may impact pathogen-host interactions and protein conformation; and iii) the existence of phase variation mechanisms that may impact Pmps' expression. We used a well-characterized collection of 53 fully-sequenced strains that represent the C. trachomatis serovars associated with the three disease groups: ocular (N=8), epithelial-genital (N=25) and lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) (N=20). We observed that PmpF and PmpE are highly polymorphic between LGV and epithelial-genital strains, and also within populations of the latter. We also found heterogeneous representation among strains for GGA(I, L)/FxxN motifs and cysteine residues, suggesting possible alterations in adhesion properties, tissue specificity and immunogenicity. PmpG and, to a lesser extent, PmpH revealed low polymorphism and high conservation of protein features among the genital strains (including the LGV group). Uniquely among the four Pmps, pmpG has regulatory sequences suggestive of phase variation. In aggregate, the results suggest that PmpG may be the lead vaccine candidate because of sequence conservation but may need to be paired with another protective antigen (like PmpH) in order to prevent immune selection of phase variants.