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Virulence. 2011 Jan-Feb;2(1):30-40. Epub 2011 Jan 1.

Campylobacter capsule and lipooligosaccharide confer resistance to serum and cationic antimicrobials.

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Department of Microbiology, New York University School of Medicine, NY, USA.


The innate immune system plays a critical role in host defense against mucosal bacteria. Campylobacter jejuni is a major cause of human gastroenteritis that usually resolves spontaneously within several days, suggesting that innate mechanisms are important to control the infection. However, the specific means by which this occurs is not well understood. While diarrheal isolates of C. jejuni usually are susceptible to human serum, we found that a systemic strain of C. jejuni, isolated from the cerebrospinal fluid of an infant with meningitis, is relatively more resistant to human serum, the Bactericidal/Permeability-Increasing Protein (BPI), an endogenous cationic antimicrobial protein, and the cationic peptide antibiotic polymyxin B. To test the hypothesis that the surface properties of this strain contributed to its ability to withstand these innate host defenses, we constructed isogenic mutants in capsule (kpsM) and lipooligosaccharide (waaF) and complemented these mutants by insertion of the complementation construct in trans into hipO, a chromosomal locus. We found that capsule expression was essential for serum resistance, whereas lipooligosaccharide played no substantial role. In contrast, the lipooligosaccharide mutant showed increased sensitivity to polymyxin B, α-defensins, cathelicidins, and BPI. These findings suggest that the polysaccharides of C. jejuni strains contribute differently to resistance against host innate immunity; whereby capsule is more important for resisting human complement and lipooligosaccharide is more important for protection against killing mediated by cationic antimicrobial peptides and proteins.

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