Neisseria gonorrhoeae delays the onset of apoptosis in polymorphonuclear leukocytes

Mark P. Simons, William M. Nauseef, Thomas S. Griffith, Michael A. Apicella*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonococcus) infection results in recruitment of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs) to the urethral lumen. Recent work from our laboratory demonstrated that N. gonorrhoeae resists killing and replicates within PMNs. In this study, we examined the effect of gonococci on PMN viability. Using both transmission electron microscopy and light microscopy, we observed nuclear condensation after 6h in PMNs that were resting or challenged with opsonized zymosan particles (OPZ). In contrast, N. gonorrhoeae delayed nuclear condensation in PMNs for 12h (13% apoptotic PMNs vs. 90% for resting and 94% for OPZ-stimulated PMNs). Additionally, DNA fragmentation was reduced in PMNs challenged with gonococci for 12h (28% apoptosis vs. 52% for resting and 98% for OPZ-stimulated PMNs). However, 74% of PMNs challenged with gonococci had condensed nuclei and 67% had fragmented DNA after 24h. Caspase activity (total caspase, caspase-3/7, caspase-9) was reduced at 4h and mitochondrial integrity was preserved at 2h in PMNs challenged with N. gonorrhoeae. Quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction demonstrated that mRNA levels of X-IAP and cIAP-2 remained high after challenge with gonococci, but were downregulated in OPZ-stimulated PMNs. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that N. gonorrhoeae delayed apoptosis in PMNs, perhaps as a strategy to allow intracellular replication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1780-1790
Number of pages11
JournalCellular Microbiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Neisseria gonorrhoeae delays the onset of apoptosis in polymorphonuclear leukocytes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this