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Eur J Biochem. 2000 Jun;267(12):3902-13.

Characterization of the phosphocholine-substituted oligosaccharide in lipopolysaccharides of type b Haemophilus influenzae.

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Clinical Research Centre, Karolinska Institutet and University College of South Stockholm, Huddinge, Sweden.


Haemophilus influenzae expresses heterogeneous populations of short-chain lipopolysaccharide (LPS) which exhibit extensive antigenic diversity among multiple oligosaccharide epitopes. These LPS oligosaccharide epitopes can carry phosphocholine (PCho) substituents, the expression of which is subject to high frequency phase variation mediated by genes in the lic1 genetic locus. The location and site of attachment of PCho substituents were determined by structural analysis of LPS from two type b H. influenzae strains, Eagan and RM7004. The lic2 locus is involved in phase variation of oligosaccharide expression. LPS obtained from the parent strains, from mutants generated by insertion of antibiotic resistance cassettes in the lic2 genetic locus, and from phase-variants showing high levels of PCho expression was characterized by electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) and 1H NMR spectroscopy of derived O-deacylated samples. ESI-MS of O-deacylated LPS from wild-type strains revealed mixtures of related glycoform structures differing in the number of hexose residues. Analysis of LPS from PCho-expressing phase-variants revealed similar mixtures of glycoforms, each containing a single PCho substituent. O-Deacylated LPS preparations from the lic2 mutants were much less complex than their respective parent strains, consisting only of Hex3 and/or Hex2 glycoforms, were examined in detail by high-field NMR techniques. It was found that the LPS samples contain the phosphoethanolamine (PEtn) substituted inner-core element, L-alpha-D-Hepp-(1-->2)-[PEtn-->6]-L-alpha-D-Hepp-(1--> 3)-L-alpha-D-He pp-(1-->5)-alpha-Kdo in which the major glycoforms carry a beta-D-Glcp or beta-D-Glcp-(1-->4)-beta-D-Glcp at the O-4 position of the 3-substituted heptose (HepI) and a beta-D-Galp at the O-2 position of the terminal heptose (HepIII). LPS from the lic2 mutants of both type b strains were found to carry PCho groups at the O-6 position of the terminal beta-D-Galp residue attached to HepIII. In the parent strains, the central heptose (HepII) of the LPS inner-core element is also substituted by hexose containing oligosaccharides. The expression of the galabiose epitope in LPS of H. influenzae type b strains has previously been linked to genes comprising the lic2 locus. The present study provides definitive evidence for the role of lic2 genes in initiating chain extension from HepII. From the analysis of core oligosaccharide samples, LPS from the lic2 mutant strain of RM7004 was also found to carry O-acetyl substituents. Mono-, di-, and tri-O-acetylated LPS oligosaccharides were identified. The major O-acetylated glycoforms were found to be substituted at the O-3 position of HepIII. A di-O-acetylated species was characterized which was also substituted at the O-6 postion of the terminal beta-D-Glc in the Hex3 glycoform. This is the first report pointing to the occurrence of O-acetyl groups in the inner-core region of H. influenzae LPS. We have previously shown that in H. influenzae strain Rd, a capsule-deficient type d strain, PCho groups are expressed in a different molecular environment, being attached at the O-6 position of a beta-D-Glcp, which is in turn attached to HepI.

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