The position of phosphorylcholine on the lipopolysaccharide of Haemophilus influenzae affects binding and sensitivity to C-reactive protein-mediated killing

Mol Microbiol. 2000 Jan;35(1):234-45. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2000.01707.x.


The lic1 locus of Haemophilus influenzae controls the incorporation of environmental choline into lipopolysaccharide (LPS) as phosphorylcholine (ChoP) as well as the phase variation of this structure. ChoP is the target of an acute phase reactant in serum, C-reactive protein (CRP), which mediates killing through the activation of complement when bound to the organism. Structural analysis of the oligosaccharide region of the H. influenzae LPS showed that ChoP is linked to different hexose residues on different chain extensions in strains Rd and Eagan. Differences in the molecular environment of ChoP affect the epitope defined by monoclonal antibody 12D9 and were associated with polymorphisms within LicD, a putative diphosphonucleoside choline transferase. Exchanging the licD genes between the two strains with ChoP on different chain extensions was sufficient to switch its position. Allelic variants with ChoP on a hexose on heptose III rather than heptose I were sensitive to CRP-mediated serum bactericidal activity regardless of the genetic background. Differences in CRP-mediated killing correlated with differences in the binding of CRP from human serum to whole bacteria. This suggests that, in addition to the mechanism involving phase variation, the structural rearrangements within the oligosaccharide contribute to evasion of innate and acquired immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism*
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • DNA Primers
  • Haemophilus influenzae / genetics
  • Haemophilus influenzae / metabolism*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / chemistry*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Phosphorylcholine / metabolism*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • DNA Primers
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Phosphorylcholine
  • C-Reactive Protein