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Infect Immun. Jan 1987; 55(1): 148–153.
PMCID: PMC260293

Protein sources of heme for Haemophilus influenzae.


Although Haemophilus influenzae requires heme for growth, the source of heme during invasive infections is not known. We compared heme, lactoperoxidase, catalase, cytochrome c, myoglobin, and hemoglobin as sources of heme for growth in defined media. The minimum concentration of heme permitting unrestricted growth of strain E1a, an H. influenzae type b isolate from cerebrospinal fluid, was 0.02 micrograms/ml. Using molar equivalents of heme as lactoperoxidase, catalase, cytochrome c, myoglobin, and hemoglobin, we determined that myoglobin and hemoglobin permitted unrestricted growth at this concentration. To determine the ability of host defenses to sequester heme from H. influenzae, we used affinity chromatography to purify human haptoglobin and hemopexin, serum proteins which bind hemoglobin and heme. Plate assays revealed that 12 strains of H. influenzae acquired heme from hemoglobin, hemoglobin-haptoglobin, heme-hemopexin, and heme-albumin. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of outer membrane proteins of strain E1a grown in heme-replete and heme-restricted conditions revealed a heme-repressible outer membrane protein with an apparent molecular mass of 38 kilodaltons. These results demonstrated that, unlike Escherichia coli, H. influenzae may acquire heme from hemoglobin-haptoglobin. H. influenzae also may acquire heme from hemopexin and albumin, which have not been previously investigated. The role of outer membrane proteins in the acquisition of heme is not yet clear.

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