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Infect Immun. 2009 Nov;77(11):5016-24. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00585-09. Epub 2009 Aug 24.

Identification of a conserved chromosomal region encoding Klebsiella pneumoniae type 1 and type 3 fimbriae and assessment of the role of fimbriae in pathogenicity.

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Department of Bacteriology, Mycology and Parasitology, Statens Serum Institut, Artillerivej 5, 2300S Copenhagen, Denmark.


Type 3 fimbriae are expressed by most clinical Klebsiella pneumoniae isolates and mediate adhesion to host structures in vitro. However, the role of type 3 fimbriae in K. pneumoniae virulence has not been evaluated by use of in vivo infection models. In this study, the type 3 fimbrial gene cluster (mrk) of the clinical isolate C3091 is described in detail. The mrk gene cluster was revealed to be localized in close proximity to the type 1 fimbrial gene cluster. Thus, a 20.4-kb fimbria-encoding region was identified and found to be highly conserved among different K. pneumoniae isolates. Interestingly, a homologue to PecS, known as a global regulator of virulence in Erwinia chrysanthemi, was identified in the fimbria-encoding region. Comparison to the previously characterized plasmid encoded mrk gene cluster revealed significant differences, and it is established here that the putative regulatory gene mrkE is not a part of the chromosomally encoded type 3 fimbrial gene cluster. To evaluate the role of type 3 fimbriae in virulence, a type 3 fimbria mutant and a type 1 and type 3 fimbria double mutant was constructed. Type 3 fimbria expression was found to strongly promote biofilm formation. However, the fimbria mutants were as effective at colonizing the intestine as the wild type, and their virulence was not attenuated in a lung infection model. Also, in a urinary tract infection model, type 3 fimbriae did not influence the virulence, whereas type 1 fimbriae were verified as an essential virulence factor. Thus, type 3 fimbriae were established not to be a virulence factor in uncomplicated K. pneumoniae infections. However, since type 3 fimbriae promote biofilm formation, their role in development of infections in catheterized patients needs to be elucidated.

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