Sulfate depletion triggers overproduction of phospholipids and the release of outer membrane vesicles by Neisseria meningitidis

Matthias J.H. Gerritzen, Dirk E. Martens, Joost P. Uittenbogaard, René H. Wijffels, Michiel Stork*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) produced by bacteria are interesting vaccine candidates. OMVs are nanoparticles that contain many immunogenic components, are self-adjuvating, and non-replicative. Despite recent insights in the biogenesis of OMVs, there is no consensus on a conserved mechanism of OMV release and the OMV yield from bacterial cultures remains low. For Neisseria meningitidis, a Gram-negative human pathogen causing meningitis and sepsis, a feasible OMV production method based on triggering OMV release by cysteine depletion has been described. In this study, we investigated the mechanism behind this external trigger for OMV release to improve the production process. Since enhanced OMV release upon cysteine depletion was associated with oxidative stress and redox responses, we investigate the influence of more oxidized sulfur sources on OMV release. We show that N. meningitidis grows similarly on sulfate, the most oxidized sulfur source, and OMV release is triggered by sulfur depletion in general. Sulfate depletion induced increased release of OMVs over cysteine depletion. Proteomics showed that sulfur depletion resulted in oxidative stress responses and upregulated phospholipid and LPS biosynthesis. Furthermore, OMVs produced by sulfur depletion were enriched in phospholipids. Mechanistically, we hypothesize that sulfur depletion results in overproduction of phospholipids causing increased bulging of the outer membrane and subsequent OMV release.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4716
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2019


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