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Open Access Research article

Outer membrane porin M35 of Moraxella catarrhalis mediates susceptibility to aminopenicillins

Marion Jetter1, Nadja Heiniger2, Violeta Spaniol1, Rolf Troller1, André Schaller3 and Christoph Aebi14*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Infectious Diseases, University of Bern, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland

2 Division of Infectious Diseases, University of California at San Francisco, USA

3 Division of Human Molecular Genetics, University of Bern, Inselspital, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland

4 Department of Pediatrics, University of Bern, Inselspital, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland

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BMC Microbiology 2009, 9:188  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-9-188

Published: 4 September 2009

Abstract

Background

The outer membrane protein M35 is a conserved porin of type 1 strains of the respiratory pathogen Moraxella catarrhalis. It was previously shown that M35 is involved in the uptake of essential nutrients required for bacterial growth and for nasal colonization in mice. The aim of this study was (i) to characterize the potential roles of M35 in the host-pathogen interactions considering the known multifunctionality of porins and (ii) to characterize the degree of conservation in the phylogenetic older subpopulation (type 2) of M. catarrhalis.

Results

Isogenic m35 mutants of the type 1 strains O35E, 300 and 415 were tested for their antimicrobial susceptibility against 15 different agents. Differences in the MIC (Minimum Inhibitory Concentration) between wild-type and mutant strains were found for eight antibiotics. For ampicillin and amoxicillin, we observed a statistically significant 2.5 to 2.9-fold MIC increase (p < 0.03) in the m35 mutants. Immunoblot analysis demonstrated that human saliva contains anti-M35 IgA. Wild-type strains and their respective m35 mutants were indistinguishable with respect to the phenotypes of autoagglutination, serum resistance, iron acquisition from human lactoferrin, adherence to and invasion of respiratory tract epithelial cells, and proinflammatory stimulation of human monocytes. DNA sequencing of m35 from the phylogenetic subpopulation type 2 strain 287 revealed 94.2% and 92.8% identity on the DNA and amino acid levels, respectively, in comparison with type 1 strains.

Conclusion

The increase in MIC for ampicillin and amoxicillin, respectively, in the M35-deficient mutants indicates that this porin affects the outer membrane permeability for aminopenicillins in a clinically relevant manner. The presence of IgA antibodies in healthy human donors indicates that M35 is expressed in vivo and recognized as a mucosal antigen by the human host. However, immunoblot analysis of human saliva suggests the possibility of antigenic variation of immunoreactive epitopes, which warrants further analysis before M35 can be considered a potential vaccine candidate.