Characterization of Klebsiella pneumoniae Type 1 Fimbriae by Detection of Phase Variation during Colonization and Infection and Impact on Virulence

Carsten Struve, Martin Bojer, Karen Angeliki Krogfelt

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Klebsiella pneumoniae is recognized as an important gram-negative opportunistic pathogen. The ability of bacteria to adhere to host structures is considered essential for the development of infections; however, few studies have examined the influence of adhesion factors on K. pneumoniae virulence. In this study, we cloned and characterized the type 1 fimbria gene cluster of a clinical K. pneumoniae isolate. Although this cluster was not identical to the Escherichia coli type 1 fimbria gene cluster, an overall high degree of structural resemblance was demonstrated. Unique to the K. pneumoniae fim gene cluster is the fimK gene, whose product contains an EAL domain, suggesting that it has a role in regulation of fimbrial expression. Like expression of type 1 fimbriae in E. coli, expression of type 1 fimbriae in K. pneumoniae was found to be phase variable, and an invertible DNA element (fim switch) was characterized. An isogenic type 1 fimbria mutant was constructed and used to evaluate the influence of type 1 fimbriae in different infection models. Type 1 fimbriae did not influence the ability of K. pneumoniae to colonize the intestine or infect the lungs, but they were determined to be a significant virulence factor in K. pneumoniae urinary tract infection. By use of a PCR-based assay, the orientation of the fim switch during colonization and infection was investigated and was found to be all “off” in the intestine and lungs but all “on” in the urinary tract. Our results suggest that during colonization and infection, there is pronounced selective pressure in different host environments for selection of either the type 1 fimbriated or nonfimbriated phenotype of K. pneumoniae.
TidsskriftInfection and Immunity
Udgave nummer9
Sider (fra-til)4055-4065
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - 2008
Udgivet eksterntJa

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