A Natural Mouse Model for Neisseria Colonization

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© 2018 American Society for Microbiology. Commensals are important for the proper functioning of multicellular organisms. How a commensal establishes persistent colonization of its host is little understood. Studies of this aspect of microbe-host interactions are impeded by the absence of an animal model. We have developed a natural small animal model for identifying host and commensal determinants of colonization and of the elusive process of persistence. Our system couples a commensal bacterium of wild mice, Neisseria musculi, with the laboratory mouse. The pairing of a mouse commensal with its natural host circumvents issues of host restriction. Studies are performed in the absence of antibiotics, hormones, invasive procedures, or genetic manipulation of the host. A single dose of N. musculi, administered orally, leads to long-term colonization of the oral cavity and gut. All mice are healthy. Susceptibility to colonization is determined by host genetics and innate immunity. For N. musculi, colonization requires the type IV pilus. Reagents and powerful tools are readily available for manipulating the laboratory mouse, allowing easy dissection of host determinants controlling colonization resistance. N. musculi is genetically related to human-dwelling commensal and pathogenic Neisseria and encodes host interaction factors and vaccine antigens of pathogenic Neisseria. Our system provides a natural approach for studying Neisseria-host interactions and is potentially useful for vaccine efficacy studies.