Selection for phase variation of los biosynthetic genes frequently occurs in progression of non-typeable haemophilus influenzae infection from the nasopharynx to the middle ear of human patients

Kate L Fox, John M Atack, Yogitha N. Srikhanta, Anja Eckert, Laura A. Novotny, Lauren O Bakaletz, Michael P Jennings

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Surface structures in Haemophilus influenzae are subject to rapid ON/OFF switching of expression, a process termed phase variation. We analyse tetranucleotide repeats controlling phase variation in lipo-oligosaccharide (LOS) genes of H. influenzae in paired isolates from both the nasopharynx and middle ears of paediatric patients with chronic or recurrent otitis media. A change in expression of at least one of the seven phase variable LOS biosynthesis genes was seen in 12 of the 21 strain pairs. Several strains showed switching of expression in multiple LOS genes, consistent with a key role for phase variable LOS biosynthetic genes in human infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere90505
Number of pages6
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • middle ear
  • haemophilus influenzae
  • nasopharynx
  • polymerase chain reaction
  • biosynthesis
  • gene amplification
  • immune response
  • pediatrics

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