Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Temperature-dependent phenotypic variation of Campylobacter jejuni lipooligosaccharides

Evgeny A Semchenko1, Christopher J Day1, Jennifer C Wilson1, I Darren Grice, Anthony P Moran12 and Victoria Korolik1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Glycomics, Griffith University, Gold Coast campus, Queensland, Australia

2 Microbiology, School of Natural Sciences, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:305  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-305

Published: 30 November 2010



Campylobacter jejuni is a major bacterial cause of food-borne enteritis, and its lipooligosaccharide (LOS) plays an initiating role in the development of the autoimmune neuropathy, Guillain-Barré syndrome, by induction of anti-neural cross-reactive antibodies through ganglioside molecular mimicry.


Herein we describe the existence and heterogeneity of multiple LOS forms in C. jejuni strains of human and chicken origin grown at 37°C and 42°C, respectively, as determined on sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide electrophoresis gels with carbohydrate-specific silver staining and blotting with anti-ganglioside ligands, and confirmed by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. The C. jejuni NCTC 11168 original isolate (11168-O) was compared to its genome-sequenced variant (11168-GS), and both were found to have a lower-Mr LOS form, which was different in size and structure to the previously characterized higher-Mr form bearing GM1 mimicry. The lower-Mr form production was found to be dependent on the growth temperature as the production of this form increased from ~5%, observed at 37°C to ~35% at 42°C. The structure of the lower-Mr form contained a β-D-Gal-(1→3)-β-D-GalNAc disaccharide moiety which is consistent with the termini of the GM1, asialo-GM1, GD1, GT1 and GQ1 gangliosides, however, it did not display GM1 mimicry as assessed in blotting studies but was shown in NMR to resemble asialo-GM1. The production of multiple LOS forms and lack of GM1 mimicry was not a result of phase variation in the genes tested of NCTC 11168 and was also observed in most of the human and chicken isolates of C. jejuni tested.


The presence of differing amounts of LOS forms at 37 and 42°C, and the variety of forms observed in different strains, indicate that LOS form variation may play a role in an adaptive mechanism or a stress response of the bacterium during the colonization of different hosts.