Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Microbiology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Moraxella catarrhalis uses a twin-arginine translocation system to secrete the β-lactamase BRO-2

Rachel Balder1, Teresa L Shaffer2 and Eric R Lafontaine1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Infectious Diseases, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA

2 Department of Microbiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:140  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-140

Published: 19 June 2013



Moraxella catarrhalis is a human-specific gram-negative bacterium readily isolated from the respiratory tract of healthy individuals. The organism also causes significant health problems, including 15-20% of otitis media cases in children and ~10% of respiratory infections in adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The lack of an efficacious vaccine, the rapid emergence of antibiotic resistance in clinical isolates, and high carriage rates reported in children are cause for concern. Virtually all Moraxella catarrhalis isolates are resistant to β-lactam antibiotics, which are generally the first antibiotics prescribed to treat otitis media in children. The enzymes responsible for this resistance, BRO-1 and BRO-2, are lipoproteins and the mechanism by which they are secreted to the periplasm of M. catarrhalis cells has not been described.


Comparative genomic analyses identified M. catarrhalis gene products resembling the TatA, TatB, and TatC proteins of the well-characterized Twin Arginine Translocation (TAT) secretory apparatus. Mutations in the M. catarrhalis tatA, tatB and tatC genes revealed that the proteins are necessary for optimal growth and resistance to β-lactams. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to replace highly-conserved twin arginine residues in the predicted signal sequence of M. catarrhalis strain O35E BRO-2, which abolished resistance to the β-lactam antibiotic carbanecillin.


Moraxella catarrhalis possesses a TAT secretory apparatus, which plays a key role in growth of the organism and is necessary for secretion of BRO-2 into the periplasm where the enzyme can protect the peptidoglycan cell wall from the antimicrobial activity of β-lactam antibiotics.