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Haemophilus influenzae (Hi), a commensal of the human respiratory mucosa, is an important cause of localized and systemic infections. We show that distinct strains belonging to typable (THi) and non-typable (NTHi) H. influenzae target human carcinoembryonic antigens (the membrane associated CEA family of cell adhesion molecules, are now termed CEACAMs). All strains of H. influenzae biogroup aegyptius (Hi-aeg) and more than 70% of THi and NTHi strains tested specifically recognize CEACAMI-Fc soluble constructs. Furthermore, transfection of Chinese hamster ovary cells with human CEACAM1 cDNA alone was sufficient for promoting Hi interactions with the transfected cells. The majority of the Hi-aeg strains tested interacted with soluble constructs containing only the N-terminal domain. In contrast, several THi and NTHi strains reacted with soluble constructs only when additional extracellular A and B domains of the receptor were present. The use of monoclonal antibodies confirmed that THi and NTHi strains also interact primarily at the N-domain. We used site-directed mutants of CEACAM1 that contained substitutions at surface exposed amino acids and a molecular model of the N-domain to identify the residues involved in interactions with Hi ligands. The studies show that a common region exposed at the CFG face of the molecule is targeted by diverse Hi strains. However, mutation at distinct sites within this area affected the interactions of distinct strains signifying the potential for tissue tropism via this receptor. Analyses of the molecular basis of interaction with human cell lines and purified CEA show that Hi strains, especially those belonging to Hi-aeg, interact with multiple CEACAMs. Because Neisseria meningitidis (Nm) strains are also known to bind at the CFG face of the receptor, we used Nm and Hi strains in co-infection experiments and demonstrate competition between these mucosal pathogens in colonization of target cells via CEACAMs.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Microbiol

Publication Date





784 - 795


Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Antigens, CD, Antigens, Differentiation, Bacterial Typing Techniques, Binding Sites, Binding, Competitive, CHO Cells, Caco-2 Cells, Carcinoembryonic Antigen, Cell Adhesion Molecules, Cricetinae, HT29 Cells, Haemophilus influenzae, Humans, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutagenesis, Neisseria meningitidis, Rats