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EMBO J. 1989 Nov;8(11):3535-40.

Cloning and expression in Escherichia coli of Haemophilus influenzae fimbrial genes establishes adherence to oropharyngeal epithelial cells.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


In this report the first example of functional expression of a fimbrial gene cluster of a non-enteric human pathogen in Escherichia coli is described. This is shown for Haemophilus influenzae fimbriae which mediate adherence to oropharyngeal epithelial cells. A genomic library of H.influenzae type b, strain 770235f+bo, was constructed using a cosmid vector and screened with a synthetic oligonucleotide probe derived from the N-terminal sequence of the fimbrial subunit of H.influenzae. Four cosmid clones were found which hybridized to this oligonucleotide probe. Escherichia coli strains harbouring these clones expressed the H.influenzae fimbriae at their cell surface, as was demonstrated in a whole-cell ELISA and by immunogold electron microscopy using a monoclonal antibody specific for the H.influenzae fimbriae. Surface expression could be maintained during subcloning until a minimal H.influenzae DNA insert of approximately 8.1 kb was obtained. Escherichia coli strains harbouring the 8.1 kb H. influenzae DNA were able to cause a mannose-resistant adherence to oropharyngeal epithelial cells and a mannose-resistant haemagglutination of human AnWj-positive erythrocytes. The nucleotide sequence of hifA, the gene encoding the major fimbrial subunit, was determined. The predicted amino acid sequence shows a significant homology with a number of E.coli fimbrial subunits.

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