We previously reported that two surface-exposed high-molecular-weight proteins, HMW1 and HMW2, expressed by a prototypic strain of non-typable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI), mediate attachment to human epithelial cells. These proteins are members of a family of highly immunogenic proteins common to 70–75% of NTHI strains. NTHI strains that lack HMW1/ HMW2-like proteins remain capable of efficient attachment to cultured human epithelial cells, suggesting the existence of additional adhesion molecules. We reasoned that characterization of high-molecular-weight immunogenic proteins from an HMW1/HMW2-deficient strain might identify additional adhesion proteins. A genomic library was prepared in λEMBL3 with chromosomal DNA from non-typable Haemophilus strain 11, a strain that lacks HMW1/HMW2-like proteins. The library was screened immunologically with convalescent serum from a child naturally infected with strain 11, and phage clones expressing high-molecular-weight recombinant proteins were identified by Western blot analysis. One clone was identified that expressed a protein with an apparent molecular mass greater than 200 kDa. Transformation of non-adherent Escherichia coli strain DH5α with plasmids containing the genetic locus encoding this protein gave rise to E. colitransformants that adhered avidly to Chang conjunctival cells. Subcloning and mutagenesis studies localized the DNA conferring the adherence phenotype to a 4.8 kbp fragment, and nucleotide sequence analysis further localized the gene encoding the adhesion protein to a 3.3 kbp open reading frame predicted to encode a protein of 114kDa. The gene was designated hia for Haemophilus influenzae adhesin. Southern analysis revealed an hia homologue in 13 of 15 HMW1/HMW2-deficient non-typable H. influenzae strains. In contrast, the hia gene was not present in any of 23 non-typable H. influenzae strains which expressed HMW1/HMW2-like proteins. Identification of this second family of high-molecular-weight adhesion proteins suggests the possibility of developing vaccines based upon a combination of HMW1/HMW2-like proteins and Hia-like proteins which would be protective against disease caused by most or all non-typable H. influenzae
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