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    Adherence of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) to the host airway is an essential initial step for asymptomatic colonization of the nasopharynx, as well as development of disease. NTHi relies on strict regulation of multiple adhesins for adherence to host substrates encountered in the airway. NTHi encode a phase-variable cytoplasmic DNA methyltransferase, ModA, that regulates expression of multiple genes; a phasevarion (phase-variable regulon). Multiple modA alleles are present in NTHi, in which different alleles methylate a different DNA target, and each controls a different set of genes. However, the role of ModA phasevarions in regulating adherence of NTHi to the host airway is not well understood. This study therefore sought to investigate the role of four of the most prevalent ModA phasevarions in the regulation of adherence of NTHi to multiple substrates of the airway. Four clinical isolates of NTHi with unique modA alleles were tested in this study. The adherence of NTHi to mucus, middle ear epithelial cells, and vitronectin was regulated in a substrate-specific manner that was dependent on the ModA allele encoded. The adhesins Protein E and P4 were found to contribute to the ModA-regulated adherence of NTHi to distinct substrates. A better understanding of substrate-specific regulation of NTHi adherence by ModA phasevarions will allow identification of NTHi populations present at the site of disease within the airway and facilitate more directed development of vaccines and therapeutics. IMPORTANCE Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) is a predominant pathogen of the human airway that causes respiratory infections such as otitis media (OM) and exacerbations in the lungs of patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Due to the lack of a licensed vaccine against NTHi and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains, it is extremely challenging to target NTHi for treatment. NTHi adhesins are considered potential candidates for vaccines or other therapeutic approaches. The ModA phasevarions of NTHi play a role in the rapid adaptation of the pathogen to different environmental stress conditions. This study addressed the role of ModA phasevarions in the regulation of adherence of NTHi to specific host substrates found within the respiratory tract. The findings of this study improve our understanding of regulation of adherence of NTHi to the airway, which may further be used to enhance the potential of adhesins as vaccine antigens and therapeutic targets against NTHi.


    Preeti Garai, John M Atack, Brandon M Wills, Michael P Jennings, Lauren O Bakaletz, Kenneth L Brockman. Adherence of Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae to Cells and Substrates of the Airway Is Differentially Regulated by Individual ModA Phasevarions. Microbiology spectrum. 2022 Dec 13:e0409322

    PMID: 36511712

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