Microevolution in response to transient heme-iron restriction enhances intracellular bacterial community development and persistence

Rachael L. Hardison, Alistair Harrison, Rachel M. Wallace, Derek R. Heimlich, Meghan E. O’Bryan, Robert P. Sebra, Heather W. Pinkett, Sheryl S. Justice*, Kevin M. Mason

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Bacterial pathogens must sense, respond and adapt to a myriad of dynamic microenvironmental stressors to survive. Adaptation is key for colonization and long-term ability to endure fluctuations in nutrient availability and inflammatory processes. We hypothesize that strains adapted to survive nutrient deprivation are more adept for colonization and establishment of chronic infection. In this study, we detected microevolution in response to transient nutrient limitation through mutation of icc. The mutation results in decreased 3',5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate phosphodiesterase activity in nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI). In a preclinical model of NTHI-induced otitis media (OM), we observed a significant decrease in the recovery of effusion from ears infected with the icc mutant strain. Clinically, resolution of OM coincides with the clearance of middle ear fluid. In contrast to this clinical paradigm, we observed that the icc mutant strain formed significantly more intracellular bacterial communities (IBCs) than the parental strain early during experimental OM. Although the number of IBCs formed by the parental strain was low at early stages of OM, we observed a significant increase at later stages that coincided with absence of recoverable effusion, suggesting the presence of a mucosal reservoir following resolution of clinical disease. These data provide the first insight into NTHI microevolution during nutritional limitation and provide the first demonstration of IBCs in a preclinical model of chronic OM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1007355
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology

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