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Open Access Research article

Neisseria meningitidis rifampicin resistant strains: analysis of protein differentially expressed

Arianna Neri1, Giuseppina Mignogna2, Cecilia Fazio1, Alessandra Giorgi2, Maria Eugenia Schininà2 and Paola Stefanelli1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Infectious, Parasitic and Immune-mediated Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, 00161 Rome, Italy

2 Department of Biochemical Sciences, "A. Rossi Fanelli", University "Sapienza", Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Rome, Italy

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:246  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-246

Published: 24 September 2010



Several mutations have been described as responsible for rifampicin resistance in Neisseria meningitidis. However, the intriguing question on why these strains are so rare remains open. The aim of this study was to investigate the protein content and to identify differential expression in specific proteins in two rifampicin resistant and one susceptible meningococci using two-dimensional electrophoresis (2-DE) combined with mass spectrometry.


In our experimental conditions, able to resolve soluble proteins with an isoelectric point between 4 and 7, twenty-three proteins have been found differentially expressed in the two resistant strains compared to the susceptible. Some of them, involved in the main metabolic pathways, showed an increased expression, mainly in the catabolism of pyruvate and in the tricarboxylic acid cycle. A decreased expression of proteins belonging to gene regulation and to those involved in the folding of polypeptides has also been observed. 2-DE analysis showed the presence of four proteins displaying a shift in their isoelectric point in both resistant strains, confirmed by the presence of amino acid changes in the sequence analysis, absent in the susceptible.


The analysis of differentially expressed proteins suggests that an intricate series of events occurs in N. meningitidis rifampicin resistant strains and the results here reported may be considered a starting point in understanding their decreased invasion capacity. In fact, they support the hypothesis that the presence of more than one protein differentially expressed, having a role in the metabolism of the meningococcus, influences its ability to infect and to spread in the population. Different reports have described and discussed how a drug resistant pathogen shows a high biological cost for survival and that may also explain why, for some pathogens, the rate of resistant organisms is relatively low considering the widespread use of a particular drug. This seems the case of rifampicin resistant meningococci.