Access to highly specialized growth substrates and production of epithelial immunomodulatory metabolites determine survival of Haemophilus influenzae in human airway epithelial cells.
Jennifer Hosmer | Marufa Nasreen | Rabeb Dhouib | Ama-Tawiah Essilfie | Horst Joachim Schirra | Anna Henningham | Emmanuelle Fantino | Peter Sly | Alastair G McEwan | Ulrike Kappler
Haemophilus influenzae (Hi) infections are associated with recurring acute exacerbations of chronic respiratory diseases in children and adults including otitis media, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. Here, we show that persistence and recurrence of Hi infections are closely linked to Hi metabolic properties, where preferred growth substrates are aligned to the metabolome of human airway epithelial surfaces and include lactate, pentoses, and nucleosides, but not glucose that is typically used for studies of Hi growth in vitro. Enzymatic and physiological investigations revealed that utilization of lactate, the preferred Hi carbon source, required the LldD L-lactate dehydrogenase (conservation: 98.8% of strains), but not the two redox-balancing D-lactate dehydrogenases Dld and LdhA. Utilization of preferred substrates was directly linked to Hi infection and persistence. When unable to utilize L-lactate or forced to rely on salvaged guanine, Hi showed reduced extra- and intra-cellular persistence in a murine model of lung infection and in primary normal human nasal epithelia, with up to 3000-fold attenuation observed in competitive infections. In contrast, D-lactate dehydrogenase mutants only showed a very slight reduction compared to the wild-type strain. Interestingly, acetate, the major Hi metabolic end-product, had anti-inflammatory effects on cultured human tissue cells in the presence of live but not heat-killed Hi, suggesting that metabolic endproducts also influence HI-host interactions. Our work provides significant new insights into the critical role of metabolism for Hi persistence in contact with host cells and reveals for the first time the immunomodulatory potential of Hi metabolites.Show more [+] Less [-]