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To define the role of the surface lipooligosaccharide (LOS) of Haemophilus ducreyi in the pathogenesis of chancroid, Tn916 mutants of H. ducreyi 35000 defective in expression of the murine monoclonal antibody (MAb) 3F11 epitope on H. ducreyi LOS were identified by immunologic screening. One mutant, designated 1381, has an LOS which lacks the MAb 3F11 epitope and migrates with an increased mobility on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The gene disrupted by the Tn916 element in strain 1381 was identified by cloning the sequences flanking the Tn916 element. The sequences were then used to probe a lambda DASHII genomic library. In strain 1381, Tn916 interrupts a gene which encodes an open reading frame (ORF) with an Mr of 40,246. This ORF has homology to the product of the rfaK gene of Escherichia coli. The major LOS glycoform produced by strain 1381 was analyzed by using a combination of mass spectrometry, linkage and composition analysis, and 1H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The major LOS species was found to terminate in a single glucose attached to the heptose (L-glycero-D-manno-heptose, or Hep) trisaccharide core. In the wild-type strain 35000, glucose serves as the acceptor for the addition of the D-glycero-D-manno-heptose (or DDHep), which extends to form the mature branch of the H. ducreyi LOS. This mature oligosaccharide is in turn partially capped by the addition of sialic acid (NeuAc), i.e., NeuAc2 alpha-->3Gal beta1-->4GlcNAc beta1-->3Gal beta1-->4DDHep alpha1-->6Glc beta1 (W. Melaugh et al., Biochemistry 33:13070-13078, 1994). Since this LOS terminates prior to the addition of the branch DD-heptose, this gene is likely to encode the D-glycero-D-manno-heptosyltransferase. Strain 1381 exhibits a significant reduction in adherence to and invasion of primary human keratinocytes. This defect was complemented by the cloned heptosyltransferase gene, indicating that the terminal portion of the LOS oligosaccharide plays an important role in adherence to human keratinocytes.


This article was published by the American Society for Microbiology and is available at: