The enteropathogenic bacterium, Campylobacter jejuni, was considered to be non-saccharolytic, but recently it emerged that l-fucose plays a central role in C. jejuni virulence. Half of C. jejuni clinical isolates possess an operon for l-fucose utilisation. In the intestinal tract, l-fucose is abundantly available in mucin O-linked glycan structures, but C. jejuni lacks a fucosidase enzyme essential to release the l-fucose. We set out to determine how C. jejuni can gain access to these intestinal l-fucosides. Growth of the fuc + C. jejuni strains, 129,108 and NCTC 11168, increased in the presence of l-fucose while fucose permease knockout strains did not benefit from additional l-fucose. With fucosidase assays and an activity-based probe, we confirmed that Bacteriodes fragilis, an abundant member of the intestinal microbiota, secretes active fucosidases. In the presence of mucins, C. jejuni was dependent on B. fragilis fucosidase activity for increased growth. Campylobacter jejuni invaded Caco-2 intestinal cells that express complex O-linked glycan structures that contain l-fucose. In infection experiments, C. jejuni was more invasive in the presence of B. fragilis and this increase is due to fucosidase activity. We conclude that C. jejuni fuc + strains are dependent on exogenous fucosidases for increased growth and invasion.
Keywords: Bacteroides fragillis; Campylobacter jejuni; fucosidase; l-fucose; mucin; virulence.
© 2020 The Authors. Cellular Microbiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.