Genetic relationships of serologically nontypable and serotype b strains of Haemophilus influenzae

J. M. Musser, S. J. Barenkamp, D. M. Granoff, R. K. Selander

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176 Scopus citations


A collection of 242 strains of Haemophilus influenzae, including 65 nontypable (unencapsulated) isolates and 177 encapsulated serotype b isolates recovered largely from children with invasive and noninvasive diseases in the United States, was characterized by the electrophoretic mobilities of 15 metabolic enzymes presumably encoded by chromosomal genes. All enzymes were polymorphic for three to seven electromorphs, and 94 distinctive multilocus genotypes (electrophoretic types [ETs]) were distinguished, among which mean genetic (allelic) diversity was 0.500. Isolates recovered from cases of invasive or noninvasive diseases did not differ significantly in level of genetic variation. The observation that 29 ETs were represented exclusively by serotype b isolates and that each of the 65 nontypable isolates was of a unique ET strongly confirmed the hypothesis that unencapsulated clinical isolates are not merely phenotypic variants of the common serotype b cell lines. Rather, the two types of isolates are distinctive subsets of the multilocus chromosomal genotypes of the species as a whole. Serotype b capsule occurred in three groups of isolates that are distantly related to multilocus enzyme genotype. Isolates of four closely related nontypable biotype IV ETs associated with obstetrical infections or neonatal bacteremia were highly divergent from all others examined and may be specifically distinct. A phylogenetic scenario was proposed in which the ancestor of H. influenzae was encapsulated and the nontypable clones arose by convergent evolutionary loss of the ability to synthesize or extracellularly express a polysaccharide capsule.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-191
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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