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Open Access Research article

Outer membrane protein P4 is not required for virulence in the human challenge model of Haemophilus ducreyi infection

Diane M Janowicz1*, Beth W Zwickl1, Kate R Fortney2, Barry P Katz13 and Margaret E Bauer2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, 545 Barnhill Drive Room EH-435, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA

2 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Indiana University School of Medicine, 635 Barnhill Drive Room MS-218, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA

3 Department of Biostatistics, Indiana University School of Medicine, 635 Barnhill Drive Room MS-218, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:166  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-166

Published: 24 June 2014

Abstract

Background

Bacterial lipoproteins often play important roles in pathogenesis and can stimulate protective immune responses. Such lipoproteins are viable vaccine candidates. Haemophilus ducreyi, which causes the sexually transmitted disease chancroid, expresses a number of lipoproteins during human infection. One such lipoprotein, OmpP4, is homologous to the outer membrane lipoprotein e (P4) of H. influenzae. In H. influenzae, e (P4) stimulates production of bactericidal and protective antibodies and contributes to pathogenesis by facilitating acquisition of the essential nutrients heme and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). Here, we tested the hypothesis that, like its homolog, H. ducreyi OmpP4 contributes to virulence and stimulates production of bactericidal antibodies.

Results

We determined that OmpP4 is broadly conserved among clinical isolates of H. ducreyi. We next constructed and characterized an isogenic ompP4 mutant, designated 35000HPompP4, in H. ducreyi strain 35000HP. To test whether OmpP4 was necessary for virulence in humans, eight healthy adults were experimentally infected. Each subject was inoculated with a fixed dose of 35000HP on one arm and three doses of 35000HPompP4 on the other arm. The overall parent and mutant pustule formation rates were 52.4% and 47.6%, respectively (Pā€‰=ā€‰0.74). These results indicate that expression of OmpP4 in not necessary for H. ducreyi to initiate disease or progress to pustule formation in humans. Hyperimmune mouse serum raised against purified, recombinant OmpP4 did not promote bactericidal killing of 35000HP or phagocytosis by J774A.1 mouse macrophages in serum bactericidal and phagocytosis assays, respectively.

Conclusions

Our data suggest that, unlike e (P4), H. ducreyi OmpP4 is not a suitable vaccine candidate. OmpP4 may be dispensable for virulence because of redundant mechanisms in H. ducreyi for heme acquisition and NAD utilization.

Keywords:
H. ducreyi; GUD; Chancroid; Lipoprotein; Human