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J Infect Dis. 2000 Apr;181(4):1376-87. Epub 2000 Apr 13.

Analysis of Moraxella catarrhalis by DNA typing: evidence for a distinct subpopulation associated with virulence traits.

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Eijkman-Winkler Institute for Microbiology, Infectious Diseases, and Inflammation, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Two DNA typing methods, probe-generated restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and single-adapter amplified fragment length polymorphism analysis, were used to study the genetic relationships among 90 Moraxella catarrhalis strains. Both methods were found to be highly concordant, generating a dendrogram with 2 main branches. The division of the M. catarrhalis population into 2 subspecies was supported by analysis of the 16S rRNA sequences. Both beta-lactamase-positive and beta-lactamase-negative strains were found in all main branches, suggesting horizontal transfer of the beta-lactamase gene. In contrast, 2 virulence traits, complement resistance and adherence to epithelial cells, were strongly associated with 1 of the 2 subspecies. The branch depth suggested that complement-resistant adherent strains diverged from a common ancestor more recently than did complement-sensitive nonadherent strains. These findings suggest the existence of subpopulations of M. catarrhalis that differ in virulence, and they may have implications for vaccine development.

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