Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

Cynthia N. Cornelissen


The neisserial transferrin binding proteins (Tbps) comprise a bipartite system for iron acquisition from human transferrin. TbpA is a TonB-dependent outer membrane protein that forms the pore for iron internalization. TbpB is a surface-exposed lipoprotein that makes the iron-uptake process more efficient. Previous studies have shown that the genes encoding these proteins are arranged in a bicistronic operon, with the tbpB gene located upstream of tbpA. The operon is under the control of the ferric uptake regulator (Fur) protein. However, promoter elements necessary for the regulation of the operon have not been experimentally defined. In this study, putative regulatory motifs were confirmed by mutagenesis. Further examination of the sequence upstream of these promoter/operator motifs led to the identification of two direct repeats. We hypothesized that these repeats may be involved in further regulation of the operon. Insertional mutagenesis of the repeats resulted in altered transcript and protein levels. These results confirmed that the region upstream of the operon serves as an extended regulatory region. A comprehensive investigation of the expression of the operon in response to different environmental stimuli that gonococci might encounter upon infection was also conducted. Changes in osmolarity, carbon source, cAMP availability, and H2O2 stress did not alter expression of the operon at the transcript or protein levels. However, low oxygen levels resulted in decreased tbpBA transcript and protein. These results are biologically relevant, and provide new insights into the use of the transferrin binding proteins as vaccine candidates. Lastly, the role of G4 DNA sequences identified in the vicinity of the tbpBA operon was investigated. We hypothesized that G4 DNA structures could be involved in the regulation of the operon. Results presented here indicate that interference with these sequences appears to have no effect on expression of the operon. However, identification of potential G4-forming sequences in the non-coding regions upstream and downstream of the operon suggests their importance, perhaps in mediating recombination which could lead to increased antigenic diversity.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2009