• ANNOgesic: a Swiss army knife for the RNA-seq based annotation of bacterial/archaeal genomes.

      Yu, Sung-Huan; Vogel, Jörg; Förstner, Konrad U; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-09-01)
      To understand the gene regulation of an organism of interest, a comprehensive genome annotation is essential. While some features, such as coding sequences, can be computationally predicted with high accuracy based purely on the genomic sequence, others, such as promoter elements or noncoding RNAs, are harder to detect. RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has proven to be an efficient method to identify these genomic features and to improve genome annotations. However, processing and integrating RNA-seq data in order to generate high-resolution annotations is challenging, time consuming, and requires numerous steps. We have constructed a powerful and modular tool called ANNOgesic that provides the required analyses and simplifies RNA-seq-based bacterial and archaeal genome annotation. It can integrate data from conventional RNA-seq and differential RNA-seq and predicts and annotates numerous features, including small noncoding RNAs, with high precision. The software is available under an open source license (ISCL) at https://pypi.org/project/ANNOgesic/.
    • Bacterial Adaptation to the Host's Diet Is a Key Evolutionary Force Shaping Drosophila-Lactobacillus Symbiosis.

      Martino, Maria Elena; Joncour, Pauline; Leenay, Ryan; Gervais, Hugo; Shah, Malay; Hughes, Sandrine; Gillet, Benjamin; Beisel, Chase; Leulier, François; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2018-07-11)
      Animal-microbe facultative symbioses play a fundamental role in ecosystem and organismal health. Yet, due to the flexible nature of their association, the selection pressures that act on animals and their facultative symbionts remain elusive. Here we apply experimental evolution to Drosophila melanogaster associated with its growth-promoting symbiont Lactobacillus plantarum, representing a well-established model of facultative symbiosis. We find that the diet of the host, rather than the host itself, is a predominant driving force in the evolution of this symbiosis. Furthermore, we identify a mechanism resulting from the bacterium's adaptation to the diet, which confers growth benefits to the colonized host. Our study reveals that bacterial adaptation to the host's diet may be the foremost step in determining the evolutionary course of a facultative animal-microbe symbiosis.
    • Bacterial RNA Biology on a Genome Scale.

      Hör, Jens; Gorski, Stanislaw A; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-16)
      Bacteria are an exceedingly diverse group of organisms whose molecular exploration is experiencing a renaissance. While the classical view of bacterial gene expression was relatively simple, the emerging view is more complex, encompassing extensive post-transcriptional control involving riboswitches, RNA thermometers, and regulatory small RNAs (sRNAs) associated with the RNA-binding proteins CsrA, Hfq, and ProQ, as well as CRISPR/Cas systems that are programmed by RNAs. Moreover, increasing interest in members of the human microbiota and environmental microbial communities has highlighted the importance of understudied bacterial species with largely unknown transcriptome structures and RNA-based control mechanisms. Collectively, this creates a need for global RNA biology approaches that can rapidly and comprehensively analyze the RNA composition of a bacterium of interest. We review such approaches with a focus on RNA-seq as a versatile tool to investigate the different layers of gene expression in which RNA is made, processed, regulated, modified, translated, and turned over.
    • Barriers to genome editing with CRISPR in bacteria.

      Vento, Justin M; Crook, Nathan; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Springer, 2019-06-05)
      Genome editing is essential for probing genotype-phenotype relationships and for enhancing chemical production and phenotypic robustness in industrial bacteria. Currently, the most popular tools for genome editing couple recombineering with DNA cleavage by the CRISPR nuclease Cas9 from Streptococcus pyogenes. Although successful in some model strains, CRISPR-based genome editing has been slow to extend to the multitude of industrially relevant bacteria. In this review, we analyze existing barriers to implementing CRISPR-based editing across diverse bacterial species. We first compare the efficacy of current CRISPR-based editing strategies. Next, we discuss alternatives when the S. pyogenes Cas9 does not yield colonies. Finally, we describe different ways bacteria can evade editing and how elucidating these failure modes can improve CRISPR-based genome editing across strains. Together, this review highlights existing obstacles to CRISPR-based editing in bacteria and offers guidelines to help achieve and enhance editing in a wider range of bacterial species, including non-model strains.
    • The conserved 3' UTR-derived small RNA NarS mediates mRNA crossregulation during nitrate respiration.

      Wang, Chuan; Chao, Yanjie; Matera, Gianluca; Gao, Qian; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Oxford Academic, 2019-12-21)
      Small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) from mRNA 3' UTRs seem to present a previously unrecognized layer of bacterial post-transcriptional control whereby mRNAs influence each other's expression, independently of transcriptional control. Studies in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica showed that such sRNAs are natural products of RNase E-mediated mRNA decay and associate with major RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) such as Hfq and ProQ. If so, there must be additional sRNAs from mRNAs that accumulate only under specific physiological conditions. We test this prediction by characterizing candidate NarS that represents the 3' UTR of nitrate transporter NarK whose gene is silent during standard aerobic growth. We find that NarS acts by Hfq-dependent base pairing to repress the synthesis of the nitrite transporter, NirC, resulting in mRNA cross-regulation of nitrate and nitrite transporter genes. Interestingly, the NarS-mediated repression selectively targets the nirC cistron of the long nirBDC-cysG operon, an observation that we rationalize as a mechanism to protect the bacterial cytoplasm from excessive nitrite toxicity during anaerobic respiration with abundant nitrate. Our successful functional assignment of a 3' UTR sRNA from a non-standard growth condition supports the notion that mRNA crossregulation is more pervasive than currently appreciated.
    • CRISPR RNA-Dependent Binding and Cleavage of Endogenous RNAs by the Campylobacter jejuni Cas9.

      Dugar, Gaurav; Leenay, Ryan T; Eisenbart, Sara K; Bischler, Thorsten; Aul, Belinda U; Beisel, Chase L; Sharma, Cynthia M; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier/ Cel Press, 2018-03-01)
      Cas9 nucleases naturally utilize CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) to silence foreign double-stranded DNA. While recent work has shown that some Cas9 nucleases can also target RNA, RNA recognition has required nuclease modifications or accessory factors. Here, we show that the Campylobacter jejuni Cas9 (CjCas9) can bind and cleave complementary endogenous mRNAs in a crRNA-dependent manner. Approximately 100 transcripts co-immunoprecipitated with CjCas9 and generally can be subdivided through their base-pairing potential to the four crRNAs. A subset of these RNAs was cleaved around or within the predicted binding site. Mutational analyses revealed that RNA binding was crRNA and tracrRNA dependent and that target RNA cleavage required the CjCas9 HNH domain. We further observed that RNA cleavage was PAM independent, improved with greater complementarity between the crRNA and the RNA target, and was programmable in vitro. These findings suggest that C. jejuni Cas9 is a promiscuous nuclease that can coordinately target both DNA and RNA.
    • The CRISPR/Cas system in Neisseria meningitidis affects bacterial adhesion to human nasopharyngeal epithelial cells.

      Heidrich, Nadja; Hagmann, Antony; Bauriedl, Saskia; Vogel, Jörg; Schoen, Christoph; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-07-30)
      Neisseria meningitidis, a commensal β-proteobacterium of the human nasopharynx, constitutes a worldwide leading cause of sepsis and epidemic meningitis. A recent genome-wide association study suggested an association of its type II-C CRISPR/Cas system with carriage and thus less invasive lineages. Here, we show that knock-out strains lacking the Cas9 protein are impaired in the adhesion to human nasopharyngeal cells which constitutes a central step in the pathogenesis of invasive meningococcal disease. Transcriptome sequencing data further suggest that meningococcal Cas9 does not affect the expression of surface adhesins but rather exerts its effect on cell adhesion in an indirect manner. Consequently, we speculate that the meningococcal CRISPR/Cas system exerts novel functions beyond its established role in defence against foreign DNA.
    • CRP-cAMP mediates silencing of Salmonella virulence at the post-transcriptional level.

      El Mouali, Youssef; Gaviria-Cantin, Tania; Sánchez-Romero, María Antonia; Gibert, Marta; Westermann, Alexander J; Vogel, Jörg; Balsalobre, Carlos; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      Invasion of epithelial cells by Salmonella enterica requires expression of genes located in the pathogenicity island I (SPI-1). The expression of SPI-1 genes is very tightly regulated and activated only under specific conditions. Most studies have focused on the regulatory pathways that induce SPI-1 expression. Here, we describe a new regulatory circuit involving CRP-cAMP, a widely established metabolic regulator, in silencing of SPI-1 genes under non-permissive conditions. In CRP-cAMP-deficient strains we detected a strong upregulation of SPI-1 genes in the mid-logarithmic growth phase. Genetic analyses revealed that CRP-cAMP modulates the level of HilD, the master regulator of Salmonella invasion. This regulation occurs at the post-transcriptional level and requires the presence of a newly identified regulatory motif within the hilD 3'UTR. We further demonstrate that in Salmonella the Hfq-dependent sRNA Spot 42 is under the transcriptional repression of CRP-cAMP and, when this transcriptional repression is relieved, Spot 42 exerts a positive effect on hilD expression. In vivo and in vitro assays indicate that Spot 42 targets, through its unstructured region III, the 3'UTR of the hilD transcript. Together, our results highlight the biological relevance of the hilD 3'UTR as a hub for post-transcriptional control of Salmonella invasion gene expression.
    • Distinct timescales of RNA regulators enable the construction of a genetic pulse generator.

      Westbrook, Alexandra; Tang, Xun; Marshall, Ryan; Maxwell, Colin S; Chappell, James; Agrawal, Deepak K; Dunlop, Mary J; Noireaux, Vincent; Beisel, Chase L; Lucks, Julius; et al. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2019-01-13)
      To build complex genetic networks with predictable behaviours, synthetic biologists use libraries of modular parts that can be characterized in isolation and assembled together to create programmable higher-order functions. Characterization experiments and computational models for gene regulatory parts operating in isolation are routinely employed to predict the dynamics of interconnected parts and guide the construction of new synthetic devices. Here, we individually characterize two modes of RNA-based transcriptional regulation, using small transcription activating RNAs (STARs) and CRISPR interference (CRISPRi), and show how their distinct regulatory timescales can be used to engineer a composed feedforward loop that creates a pulse of gene expression. We use a cell-free transcription-translation system (TXTL) to rapidly characterize the system, and we apply Bayesian inference to extract kinetic parameters for an ODE-based mechanistic model. We then demonstrate in simulation and verify with TXTL experiments that the simultaneous regulation of a single gene target with STARs and CRISPRi leads to a pulse of gene expression. Our results suggest the modularity of the two regulators in an integrated genetic circuit, and we anticipate that construction and modelling frameworks that can leverage this modularity will become increasingly important as synthetic circuits increase in complexity. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    • Einzelzell-RNA-Sequenzierung beleuchtet den Infektionsprozess

      Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Westermann, Alexander J.; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Straße 2, 97080 Würzburg. Germany. (2017-10-11)
    • An enhanced assay to characterize anti-CRISPR proteins using a cell-free transcription-translation system.

      Wandera, Katharina G; Collins, Scott P; Wimmer, Franziska; Marshall, Ryan; Noireaux, Vincent; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2019-05-21)
      The characterization of CRISPR-Cas immune systems in bacteria was quickly followed by the discovery of anti-CRISPR proteins (Acrs) in bacteriophages. These proteins block different steps of CRISPR-based immunity and, as some inhibit Cas nucleases, can offer tight control over CRISPR technologies. While Acrs have been identified against a few CRISPR-Cas systems, likely many more await discovery and application. Here, we report a rapid and scalable method for characterizing putative Acrs against Cas nucleases using an E. coli-derived cell-free transcription-translation system. Using known Acrs against type II Cas9 nucleases as models, we demonstrate how the method can be used to measure the inhibitory activity of individual Acrs in under two days. We also show how the method can overcome non-specific inhibition of gene expression observed for some Acrs. In total, the method should accelerate the interrogation and application of Acrs as CRISPR-Cas inhibitors.
    • The Francisella novicida Cas12a is sensitive to the structure downstream of the terminal repeat in CRISPR arrays.

      Liao, Chunyu; Slotkowski, Rebecca A; Achmedov, Tatjana; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-10-12)
      The Class 2 Type V-A CRISPR effector protein Cas12a/Cpf1 has gained widespread attention in part because of the ease in achieving multiplexed genome editing, gene regulation, and DNA detection. Multiplexing derives from the ability of Cas12a alone to generate multiple guide RNAs from a transcribed CRISPR array encoding alternating conserved repeats and targeting spacers. While array design has focused on how to optimize guide-RNA sequences, little attention has been paid to sequences outside of the CRISPR array. Here, we show that a structured hairpin located immediately downstream of the 3' repeat interferes with utilization of the adjacent encoded guide RNA by Francisella novicida (Fn)Cas12a. We first observed that a synthetic Rho-independent terminator immediately downstream of an array impaired DNA cleavage based on plasmid clearance in E. coli and DNA cleavage in a cell-free transcription-translation (TXTL) system. TXTL-based cleavage assays further revealed that inhibition was associated with incomplete processing of the transcribed CRISPR array and could be attributed to the stable hairpin formed by the terminator. We also found that the inhibitory effect partially extended to upstream spacers in a multi-spacer array. Finally, we found that removing the terminal repeat from the array increased the inhibitory effect, while replacing this repeat with an unprocessable terminal repeat from a native FnCas12a array restored cleavage activity directed by the adjacent encoded guide RNA. Our study thus revealed that sequences surrounding a CRISPR array can interfere with the function of a CRISPR nuclease, with implications for the design and evolution of CRISPR arrays.
    • Functional analysis of Salmonella Typhi adaptation to survival in water.

      Kingsley, Robert A; Langridge, Gemma; Smith, Sarah E; Makendi, Carine; Fookes, Maria; Wileman, Tom M; El Ghany, Moataz Abd; Keith Turner, A; Dyson, Zoe A; Sridhar, Sushmita; et al. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018-11-18)
      Contaminated water is a major risk factor associated with the transmission of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi (S. Typhi), the aetiological agent of human typhoid. However, little is known about how this pathogen adapts to living in the aqueous environment. We used transcriptome analysis (RNA-seq) and transposon mutagenesis (TraDIS) to characterize these adaptive changes and identify multiple genes that contribute to survival. Over half of the genes in the S. Typhi genome altered expression level within the first 24 h following transfer from broth culture to water, although relatively few did so in the first 30 min. Genes linked to central metabolism, stress associated with arrested proton motive force and respiratory chain factors changed expression levels. Additionally, motility and chemotaxis genes increased expression, consistent with a scavenging lifestyle. The viaB-associated gene tviC encoding a glcNAc epimerase that is required for Vi polysaccharide biosynthesis was, along with several other genes, shown to contribute to survival in water. Thus, we define regulatory adaptation operating in S. Typhi that facilitates survival in water.
    • Genome organization and DNA accessibility control antigenic variation in trypanosomes.

      Müller, Laura S M; Cosentino, Raúl O; Förstner, Konrad U; Guizetti, Julien; Wedel, Carolin; Kaplan, Noam; Janzen, Christian J; Arampatzi, Panagiota; Vogel, Jörg; Steinbiss, Sascha; et al. (2018-01-01)
      Many evolutionarily distant pathogenic organisms have evolved similar survival strategies to evade the immune responses of their hosts. These include antigenic variation, through which an infecting organism prevents clearance by periodically altering the identity of proteins that are visible to the immune system of the host1. Antigenic variation requires large reservoirs of immunologically diverse antigen genes, which are often generated through homologous recombination, as well as mechanisms to ensure the expression of one or very few antigens at any given time. Both homologous recombination and gene expression are affected by three-dimensional genome architecture and local DNA accessibility2,3. Factors that link three-dimensional genome architecture, local chromatin conformation and antigenic variation have, to our knowledge, not yet been identified in any organism. One of the major obstacles to studying the role of genome architecture in antigenic variation has been the highly repetitive nature and heterozygosity of antigen-gene arrays, which has precluded complete genome assembly in many pathogens. Here we report the de novo haplotype-specific assembly and scaffolding of the long antigen-gene arrays of the model protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei, using long-read sequencing technology and conserved features of chromosome folding4. Genome-wide chromosome conformation capture (Hi-C) reveals a distinct partitioning of the genome, with antigen-encoding subtelomeric regions that are folded into distinct, highly compact compartments. In addition, we performed a range of analyses—Hi-C, fluorescence in situ hybridization, assays for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing and single-cell RNA sequencing—that showed that deletion of the histone variants H3.V and H4.V increases antigen-gene clustering, DNA accessibility across sites of antigen expression and switching of the expressed antigen isoform, via homologous recombination. Our analyses identify histone variants as a molecular link between global genome architecture, local chromatin conformation and antigenic variation.
    • A global genomic approach uncovers novel components for twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

      Nolan, Laura M; Whitchurch, Cynthia B; Barquist, Lars; Katrib, Marilyn; Boinett, Christine J; Mayho, Matthew; Goulding, David; Charles, Ian G; Filloux, Alain; Parkhill, Julian; et al. (Microbiology Society, 2018-11-01)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an extremely successful pathogen able to cause both acute and chronic infections in a range of hosts, utilizing a diverse arsenal of cell-associated and secreted virulence factors. A major cell-associated virulence factor, the Type IV pilus (T4P), is required for epithelial cell adherence and mediates a form of surface translocation termed twitching motility, which is necessary to establish a mature biofilm and actively expand these biofilms. P. aeruginosa twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion is a coordinated, multicellular behaviour, allowing cells to rapidly colonize surfaces, including implanted medical devices. Although at least 44 proteins are known to be involved in the biogenesis, assembly and regulation of the T4P, with additional regulatory components and pathways implicated, it is unclear how these components and pathways interact to control these processes. In the current study, we used a global genomics-based random-mutagenesis technique, transposon directed insertion-site sequencing (TraDIS), coupled with a physical segregation approach, to identify all genes implicated in twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion in P. aeruginosa. Our approach allowed identification of both known and novel genes, providing new insight into the complex molecular network that regulates this process in P. aeruginosa. Additionally, our data suggest that the flagellum-associated gene products have a differential effect on twitching motility, based on whether components are intra- or extracellular. Overall the success of our TraDIS approach supports the use of this global genomic technique for investigating virulence genes in bacterial pathogens.
    • Global Maps of ProQ Binding In Vivo Reveal Target Recognition via RNA Structure and Stability Control at mRNA 3' Ends.

      Holmqvist, Erik; Li, Lei; Bischler, Thorsten; Barquist, Lars; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2018-06-07)
      The conserved RNA-binding protein ProQ has emerged as the centerpiece of a previously unknown third large network of post-transcriptional control in enterobacteria. Here, we have used in vivo UV crosslinking and RNA sequencing (CLIP-seq) to map hundreds of ProQ binding sites in Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli. Our analysis of these binding sites, many of which are conserved, suggests that ProQ recognizes its cellular targets through RNA structural motifs found in small RNAs (sRNAs) and at the 3′ end of mRNAs. Using the cspE mRNA as a model for 3′ end targeting, we reveal a function for ProQ in protecting mRNA against exoribonucleolytic activity. Taken together, our results underpin the notion that ProQ governs a post-transcriptional network distinct from those of the well-characterized sRNA-binding proteins, CsrA and Hfq, and suggest a previously unrecognized, sRNA-independent role of ProQ in stabilizing mRNAs.
    • Global snapshots of bacterial RNA networks.

      Hör, Jens; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung,Josef-Schneider-Straße 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2017-02-01)
    • HHV-6 encoded small non-coding RNAs define an intermediate and early stage in viral reactivation.

      Prusty, Bhupesh K; Gulve, Nitish; Chowdhury, Suvagata Roy; Schuster, Michael; Strempel, Sebastian; Descamps, Vincent; Rudel, Thomas; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      Human herpesvirus 6A and 6B frequently acquires latency. HHV-6 activation has been associated with various human diseases. Germ line inheritance of chromosomally integrated HHV-6 makes viral DNA-based analysis difficult for determination of early stages of viral activation. We characterized early stages of HHV-6 activation using high throughput transcriptomics studies and applied the results to understand virus activation under clinical conditions. Using a latent HHV-6A cell culture model in U2OS cells, we identified an early stage of viral reactivation, which we define as transactivation that is marked by transcription of several viral small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs) in the absence of detectable increase in viral replication and proteome. Using deep sequencing approaches, we detected previously known as well as a new viral sncRNAs that characterized viral transactivation and differentiated it from latency. Here we show changes in human transcriptome upon viral transactivation that reflect multiple alterations in mitochondria-associated pathways, which was supported by observation of increased mitochondrial fragmentation in virus reactivated cells. Furthermore, we present here a unique clinical case of DIHS/DRESS associated death where HHV-6 sncRNA-U14 was abundantly detected throughout the body of the patient in the presence of low viral DNA. In this study, we have identified a unique and early stage of viral activation that is characterized by abundant transcription of viral sncRNAs, which can serve as an ideal biomarker under clinical conditions.
    • Humanized mice for modeling human infectious disease: challenges, progress, and outlook.

      Legrand, Nicolas; Ploss, Alexander; Balling, Rudi; Becker, Pablo D; Borsotti, Chiara; Brezillon, Nicolas; Debarry, Jennifer; de Jong, Ype; Deng, Hongkui; Di Santo, James P; et al. (2009-07-23)
      Over 800 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis viruses, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and malaria, resulting in more than 5 million deaths annually. Here we discuss the potential and challenges of humanized mouse models for developing effective and affordable therapies and vaccines, which are desperately needed to combat these diseases.
    • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Brain Endothelial Cells as a Cellular Model to Study Infection.

      Martins Gomes, Sara F; Westermann, Alexander J; Sauerwein, Till; Hertlein, Tobias; Förstner, Konrad U; Ohlsen, Knut; Metzger, Marco; Shusta, Eric V; Kim, Brandon J; Appelt-Menzel, Antje; et al. (Frontiers, 2019-01-01)
      Meningococcal meningitis is a severe central nervous system infection that occurs when Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) penetrates brain endothelial cells (BECs) of the meningeal blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier. As a human-specific pathogen, in vivo models are greatly limited and pose a significant challenge. In vitro cell models have been developed, however, most lack critical BEC phenotypes limiting their usefulness. Human BECs generated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) retain BEC properties and offer the prospect of modeling the human-specific Nm interaction with BECs. Here, we exploit iPSC-BECs as a novel cellular model to study Nm host-pathogen interactions, and provide an overview of host responses to Nm infection. Using iPSC-BECs, we first confirmed that multiple Nm strains and mutants follow similar phenotypes to previously described models. The recruitment of the recently published pilus adhesin receptor CD147 underneath meningococcal microcolonies could be verified in iPSC-BECs. Nm was also observed to significantly increase the expression of pro-inflammatory and neutrophil-specific chemokines IL6, CXCL1, CXCL2, CXCL8, and CCL20, and the secretion of IFN-γ and RANTES. For the first time, we directly observe that Nm disrupts the three tight junction proteins ZO-1, Occludin, and Claudin-5, which become frayed and/or discontinuous in BECs upon Nm challenge. In accordance with tight junction loss, a sharp loss in trans-endothelial electrical resistance, and an increase in sodium fluorescein permeability and in bacterial transmigration, was observed. Finally, we established RNA-Seq of sorted, infected iPSC-BECs, providing expression data of Nm-responsive host genes. Altogether, this model provides novel insights into Nm pathogenesis, including an impact of Nm on barrier properties and tight junction complexes, and suggests that the paracellular route may contribute to Nm traversal of BECs.