Niche-restricted pathogens are evolutionarily linked with the specific biological fluids that are encountered during infection. Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes the genital infection gonorrhea and is exposed to seminal fluid during sexual transmission. Treatment of N. gonorrhoeae with seminal plasma or purified semen proteins lactoferrin, serum albumin, and prostatespecific antigen each facilitated type IV pilus-mediated twitching motility of the bacterium. Motility in the presence of seminal plasma was characterized by high velocity and low directional persistence. In addition, infection of epithelial cells with N. gonorrhoeae in the presence of seminal plasma resulted in enhanced microcolony formation. Close association of multiple pili in the form of bundles was also disrupted after seminal plasma treatment leading to an increase in the number of single pilus filaments on the bacterial surface. Thus, exposure of N. gonorrhoeae to seminal plasma is proposed to alter bacterial motility and aggregation characteristics to influence the processes of transmission and colonization.
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