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Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology

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Bacteria | Bacterial Infections and Mycoses | Female Urogenital Diseases and Pregnancy Complications | Infectious Disease | Male Urogenital Diseases | Microbiology | Therapeutics


Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a bacterial pathogen responsible for the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea. Emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) of N. gonorrhoeae worldwide has resulted in limited therapeutic choices for this infection. Men who seek treatment often have symptomatic urethritis; in contrast, gonococcal cervicitis in women is usually minimally symptomatic, but may progress to pelvic inflammatory disease. Previously, we reported the first analysis of gonococcal transcriptome expression determined in secretions from women with cervical infection. Here, we defined gonococcal global transcriptional responses in urethral specimens from men with symptomatic urethritis and compared these with transcriptional responses in specimens obtained from women with cervical infections and in vitro-grown N. gonorrhoeae isolates. This is the first comprehensive comparison of gonococcal gene expression in infected men and women. RNA sequencing analysis revealed that 9.4% of gonococcal genes showed increased expression exclusively in men and included genes involved in host immune cell interactions, while 4.3% showed increased expression exclusively in women and included phage-associated genes. Infected men and women displayed comparable antibiotic-resistant genotypes and in vitro phenotypes, but a 4-fold higher expression of the Mtr efflux pump-related genes was observed in men. These results suggest that expression of AMR genes is programed genotypically and also driven by sex-specific environments. Collectively, our results indicate that distinct N. gonorrhoeae gene expression signatures are detected during genital infection in men and women. We propose that therapeutic strategies could target sex-specific differences in expression of antibiotic resistance genes.

IMPORTANCE Recent emergence of antimicrobial resistance of Neisseria gonorrhoeae worldwide has resulted in limited therapeutic choices for treatment of infections caused by this organism. We performed global transcriptomic analysis of N. gonorrhoeae in subjects with gonorrhea who attended a Nanjing, China, sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic, where antimicrobial resistance of N. gonorrhoeae is high and increasing. We found that N. gonorrhoeae transcriptional responses to infection differed in genital specimens taken from men and women, particularly antibiotic resistance gene expression, which was increased in men. These sex-specific findings may provide a new approach to guide therapeutic interventions and preventive measures that are also sex specific while providing additional insight to address antimicrobial resistance of N. gonorrhoeae.


Neisseria gonorrhoeae, RNA-seq, antibiotic resistance, human mucosal infection

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Copyright © 2018 Nudel et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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mSphere. 2018 Jun 27;3(3). pii: e00312-18. doi: 10.1128/mSphereDirect.00312-18. Print 2018 Aug 29. Link to article on publisher's site

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.