Open Access Research article

Burkholderia Hep_Hag autotransporter (BuHA) proteins elicit a strong antibody response during experimental glanders but not human melioidosis

Rachaneeporn Tiyawisutsri12, Matthew TG Holden3, Sarinna Tumapa1, Sirirat Rengpipat4, Simon R Clarke5, Simon J Foster5, William C Nierman67, Nicholas PJ Day18 and Sharon J Peacock18*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

2 Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

3 The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge, CB10 1SA, UK

4 Faculty of Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

5 Department of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK

6 The Institute for Genomic Research, Rockville, Maryland 20850, USA

7 The George Washington University School of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Washington DC 20037, USA

8 Center for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, OX3 9LJ, UK

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BMC Microbiology 2007, 7:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-7-19

Published: 15 March 2007



The bacterial biothreat agents Burkholderia mallei and Burkholderia pseudomallei are the cause of glanders and melioidosis, respectively. Genomic and epidemiological studies have shown that B. mallei is a recently emerged, host restricted clone of B. pseudomallei.


Using bacteriophage-mediated immunoscreening we identified genes expressed in vivo during experimental equine glanders infection. A family of immunodominant antigens were identified that share protein domain architectures with hemagglutinins and invasins. These have been designated Burkholderia Hep_Hag autotransporter (BuHA) proteins. A total of 110/207 positive clones (53%) of a B. mallei expression library screened with sera from two infected horses belonged to this family. This contrasted with 6/189 positive clones (3%) of a B. pseudomallei expression library screened with serum from 21 patients with culture-proven melioidosis.


Members of the BuHA proteins are found in other Gram-negative bacteria and have been shown to have important roles related to virulence. Compared with other bacterial species, the genomes of both B. mallei and B. pseudomallei contain a relative abundance of this family of proteins. The domain structures of these proteins suggest that they function as multimeric surface proteins that modulate interactions of the cell with the host and environment. Their effect on the cellular immune response to B. mallei and their potential as diagnostics for glanders requires further study.