Non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae adhere to and invade human bronchial epithelial cells via an interaction of lipooligosaccharide with the PAF receptor



Adherence and invasion are thought to be key events in the pathogenesis of non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi). The role of NTHi lipooligosaccharide (LOS) in adherence was examined using an LOS-coated polystyrene bead adherence assay. Beads coated with NTHi 2019 LOS adhered significantly more to 16HBE14 human bronchial epithelial cells than beads coated with truncated LOS isolated from an NTHi 2019 pgmB::ermr mutant (P = 0.037). Adherence was inhibited by preincubation of cell monolayers with NTHi 2019 LOS (P = 0.0009), but not by preincubation with NTHi 2019 pgmB::ermr LOS. Competitive inhibition studies with a panel of compounds containing structures found within NTHi LOS suggested that a phosphorylcholine (ChoP) moiety was involved in adherence. Further experiments revealed that mutations affecting the oligosaccharide region of LOS or the incorporation of ChoP therein caused significant decreases in the adherence to and invasion of bronchial cells by NTHi 2019 (P < 0.01). Analysis of infected monolayers by confocal microscopy showed that ChoP+ NTHi bacilli co-localized with the PAF receptor. Pretreatment of bronchial cells with a PAF receptor antagonist inhibited invasion by NTHi 2109 and two other NTHi strains expressing ChoP+ LOS glycoforms exhibiting high reactivity with an anti-ChoP antibody on colony immunoblots. These data suggest that a particular subset of ChoP+ LOS glycoforms could mediate NTHi invasion of bronchial cells by means of interaction with the PAF receptor.