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Contribution of Moraxella catarrhalis Type IV Pili to Nasopharyngeal Colonization and Biofilm Formation

Luke, Nicole R., Jurcisek, Joseph A., Bakaletz, Lauren O., Campagnari, Anthony A.
Infection and immunity 2007 v.75 no.12 pp. 5559-5564
Moraxella catarrhalis, bacteria, bacterial colonization, biofilm, biosynthesis, chinchillas, eukaryotic cells, fimbriae, genes, humans, in vivo studies, models, mutants, nasopharynx, pathogenesis, pathogens, protein subunits, proteins, respiratory system
Moraxella catarrhalis is a gram-negative mucosal pathogen of the human respiratory tract. Although little information is available regarding the initial steps of M. catarrhalis pathogenesis, this organism must be able to colonize the human mucosal surface in order to initiate an infection. Type IV pili (TFP), filamentous surface appendages primarily comprised of a single protein subunit termed pilin, play a crucial role in the initiation of disease by a wide range of bacteria. We previously identified the genes that encode the major proteins involved in the biosynthesis of M. catarrhalis TFP and determined that the TFP expressed by this organism are highly conserved and essential for natural transformation. We extended this initial study by investigating the contribution of TFP to the early stages of M. catarrhalis colonization. TFP-deficient M. catarrhalis bacteria exhibit diminished adherence to eukaryotic cells in vitro. Additionally, our studies demonstrate that M. catarrhalis cells form a mature biofilm in continuous-flow chambers and that biofilm formation is enhanced by TFP expression. The potential role of TFP in colonization by M. catarrhalis was further investigated using in vivo studies comparing the abilities of wild-type M. catarrhalis and an isogenic TFP mutant to colonize the nasopharynx of the chinchilla. These results suggest that the expression of TFP contributes to mucosal airway colonization. Furthermore, these data indicate that the chinchilla model of nasopharyngeal colonization provides an effective animal system for studying the early steps of M. catarrhalis pathogenesis.