Environmental and genetic regulation of the phosphorylcholine epitope of Haemophilus influenzae lipooligosaccharide

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

Publication Date


Document Type



Aerobiosis; Bacterial Proteins; Epitopes; Escherichia coli Proteins; Gene Expression Profiling; *Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial; Haemophilus influenzae; Humans; Lipopolysaccharides; Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis; Oxygen; Phosphorylcholine; RNA-Binding Proteins; Repressor Proteins; UTP-Glucose-1-Phosphate Uridylyltransferase


Microbiology | Molecular Genetics


In response to environmental signals in the host, bacterial pathogens express factors required during infection and repress those that interfere with specific stages of this process. Signalling pathways controlling virulence factors of the human respiratory pathogen, Haemophilus influenzae, are predominantly unknown. The lipooligosaccharide (LOS) outer core represents a prototypical virulence trait of H. influenzae that enhances virulence but also provides targets for innate and adaptive immunity. We report regulation of the display of the virulence-associated phosphorylcholine (PC) epitope on the LOS in response to environmental conditions. PC display is optimal under microaerobic conditions and markedly decreased under conditions of high culture aeration. Gene expression analysis using a DNA microarray was performed to begin to define the metabolic state of the cell under these conditions and to identify genes potentially involved in PC epitope modulation. Global gene expression profiling detected changes in redox responsive genes and in genes of carbohydrate metabolism. The effects on carbohydrate metabolism led us to examine the role of the putative H. influenzae homologue of csrA, a regulator of glycolysis and gluconeogenesis in Escherichia coli. A mutant containing an in-frame deletion of the H. influenzae csrA gene showed increased PC epitope levels under aerobic conditions. Furthermore, deletion of csrA elevated mRNA expression of galU, an essential virulence gene that is critical in generating sugar precursors needed for polysaccharide formation and LOS outer core synthesis. Growth conditions predicted to alter the redox state of the culture modulated the PC epitope and galU expression as well. The results are consistent with a multifactorial mechanism of control of LOS-PC epitope display involving csrA and environmental signals that coordinately regulate biosynthetic and metabolic genes controlling the LOS structure.

DOI of Published Version



Mol Microbiol. 2005 Feb;55(3):724-38. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Molecular microbiology

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed