The Leptospiral Outer Membrane

  • David A. HaakeEmail author
  • Wolfram R. Zückert
Part of the Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology book series (CT MICROBIOLOGY, volume 387)


The outer membrane (OM) is the front line of leptospiral interactions with their environment and the mammalian host. Unlike most invasive spirochetes, pathogenic leptospires must be able to survive in both free-living and host-adapted states. As organisms move from one set of environmental conditions to another, the OM must cope with a series of conflicting challenges. For example, the OM must be porous enough to allow nutrient uptake, yet robust enough to defend the cell against noxious substances. In the host, the OM presents a surface decorated with adhesins and receptors for attaching to, and acquiring, desirable host molecules such as the complement regulator, Factor H. On the other hand, the OM must enable leptospires to evade detection by the host’s immune system on their way from sites of invasion through the bloodstream to the protected niche of the proximal tubule. The picture that is emerging of the leptospiral OM is that, while it shares many of the characteristics of the OMs of spirochetes and Gram-negative bacteria, it is also unique and different in ways that make it of general interest to microbiologists. For example, unlike most other pathogenic spirochetes, the leptospiral OM is rich in lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Leptospiral LPS is similar to that of Gram-negative bacteria but has a number of unique structural features that may explain why it is not recognized by the LPS-specific Toll-like receptor 4 of humans. As in other spirochetes, lipoproteins are major components of the leptospiral OM, though their roles are poorly understood. The functions of transmembrane outer membrane proteins (OMPs) in many cases are better understood, thanks to homologies with their Gram-negative counterparts and the emergence of improved genetic techniques. This chapter will review recent discoveries involving the leptospiral OM and its role in leptospiral physiology and pathogenesis.


Peripheral Membrane Protein Pathogenic Leptospire Outer Membrane Lipoprotein Surface Lipoprotein Lipoprotein Signal Peptide 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are extremely grateful to Dr. James Matsunaga for his helpful comments on regulation of Lig expression. Current work in Dr. Haake’s laboratory is supported by NIH Grant R01 AI034431 and a VA Merit Award. Current work in Dr. Zückert’s laboratory is supported by NIH Grant P30 GM103326 and a University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute Lied Basic Science Pilot Grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Infectious DiseasesVA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare SystemLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Medicine, Urology, and Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular GeneticsThe David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLALos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Microbiology, Molecular Genetics and ImmunologyUniversity of Kansas School of MedicineKansas CityUSA

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