Regulation of competence development and sugar utilization in Haemophilus influenzae Rd by a phosphoenolpyruvate:fructose phosphotransferase system


Leah P. Macfadyen E-mail; Tel. (604) 822 3744; Fax (604) 822 2416.


Changes in intracellular cAMP concentration play important roles in Haemophilus influenzae, regulating both sugar utilization and competence for natural transformation. In enteric bacteria, cAMP levels are controlled by the phosphoenolpyruvate:glycose phosphotransferase system (PTS) in response to changes in availability of the preferred sugars it transports. We have demonstrated the existence of a simple PTS in H. influenzae by several methods. We have cloned the H. influenzaeptsI gene, encoding PTS Enzyme I; genome analysis locates it in a pts operon structurally homologous to those of enteric bacteria. In vitro phosphorylation assays confirmed the presence of functional PTS components. A ptsI null mutation reduced fructose uptake to 1% of the wild-type rate, and abolished fructose fermentation even when exogenous cAMP was provided. The ptsI mutation also prevented fermentation of ribose and galactose, but utilization of these cAMP-dependent sugars was restored by addition of cAMP. In wild-type cells the non-metabolizable fructose analogue xylitol prevented fermentation of these sugars, confirming that the fructose PTS regulates cAMP levels. Development of competence under standard inducing conditions was reduced 250-fold by the ptsI mutation, unless cells were provided with exogenous cAMP. Competence is thus shown to be under direct nutritional control by a fructose-specific PTS.