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Respiratory proteins contribute differentially to Campylobacter jejuni’s survival and in vitro interaction with hosts’ intestinal cells

Issmat I Kassem1, Mahesh Khatri1, Malak A Esseili1, Yasser M Sanad1, Yehia M Saif1, Jonathan W Olson2 and Gireesh Rajashekara1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Food Animal Health Research Program, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, The Ohio State University, Wooster, OH, 44691, USA

2 Department of Microbiology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 27695, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2012, 12:258  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-258

Published: 13 November 2012



The genetic features that facilitate Campylobacter jejuni’s adaptation to a wide range of environments are not completely defined. However, whole genome expression studies showed that respiratory proteins (RPs) were differentially expressed under varying conditions and stresses, suggesting further unidentified roles for RPs in C. jejuni’s adaptation. Therefore, our objectives were to characterize the contributions of selected RPs to C. jejuni’s i- key survival phenotypes under different temperature (37°C vs. 42°C) and oxygen (microaerobic, ambient, and oxygen-limited/anaerobic) conditions and ii- its interactions with intestinal epithelial cells from disparate hosts (human vs. chickens).


C. jejuni mutant strains with individual deletions that targeted five RPs; nitrate reductase (ΔnapA), nitrite reductase (ΔnrfA), formate dehydrogenase (ΔfdhA), hydrogenase (ΔhydB), and methylmenaquinol:fumarate reductase (ΔmfrA) were used in this study. We show that only the ΔfdhA exhibited a decrease in motility; however, incubation at 42°C significantly reduced the deficiency in the ΔfdhA’s motility as compared to 37°C. Under all tested conditions, the ΔmfrA showed a decreased susceptibility to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), while the ΔnapA and the ΔfdhA showed significantly increased susceptibility to the oxidant as compared to the wildtype. Further, the susceptibility of the ΔnapA to H2O2 was significantly more pronounced at 37°C. The biofilm formation capability of individual RP mutants varied as compared to the wildtype. However, the impact of the deletion of certain RPs affected biofilm formation in a manner that was dependent on temperature and/or oxygen concentration. For example, the ΔmfrA displayed significantly deficient and increased biofilm formation under microaerobic conditions at 37°C and 42°C, respectively. However, under anaerobic conditions, the ΔmfrA was only significantly impaired in biofilm formation at 42°C. Additionally, the RPs mutants showed differential ability for infecting and surviving in human intestinal cell lines (INT-407) and primary chicken intestinal epithelial cells, respectively. Notably, the ΔfdhA and the ΔhydB were deficient in interacting with both cell types, while the ΔmfrA displayed impairments only in adherence to and invasion of INT-407. Scanning electron microscopy showed that the ΔhydB and the ΔfdhA exhibited filamentous and bulging (almost spherical) cell shapes, respectively, which might be indicative of defects in cell division.


We conclude that the RPs contribute to C. jejuni’s motility, H2O2 resistance, biofilm formation, and in vitro interactions with hosts’ intestinal cells. Further, the impact of certain RPs varied in response to incubation temperature and/or oxygen concentration. Therefore, RPs may facilitate the prevalence of C. jejuni in a variety of niches, contributing to the pathogen’s remarkable potential for adaptation.

Campylobacter jejuni; Respiratory proteins; Survival; Adaptation; Motility; Oxidative stress; Biofilm; Oxygen; Temperature; INT-407; Chicken intestinal epithelial cells