The human-specific bacterial pathogen Neisseria meningitidis is a major cause of sepsis and/or meningitis. The pili of N. meningitidis interact with CD46, a human cell-surface protein involved in regulation of complement activation. Transgenic mice expressing human CD46 were susceptible to meningococcal disease, because bacteria crossed the blood-brain barrier in these mice. Development of disease was more efficient with piliated bacteria after intranasal, but not intraperitoneal, challenge of CD46 transgenic mice, suggesting that human CD46 facilitates pilus-dependent interactions at the epithelial mucosa. Hence, the human CD46 transgenic mice model is a potentially useful tool for studying pathogenesis and for vaccine development against meningococcal disease.
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