López-López, N.; Euba, B.; Hill, J.; Dhouib, R.; Caballero, L.; Leiva León, José
; Hosmer, J.; Cuesta, S.; Ramos-Vivas, J.; Díez-Martínez, R.; Schirra, H. J.; Blank, L. M.; Kappler, U. (Autor de correspondencia); Garmendia, J. (Autor de correspondencia)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by abnormal inflammatory responses and impaired airway immunity, which provides an opportunistic platform for nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) infection. Clinical evidence supports that the COPD airways present increased concentrations of glucose, which may facilitate proliferation of pathogenic bacteria able to use glucose as a carbon source. NTHi metabolizes glucose through respiration-assisted fermentation, leading to the excretion of acetate, formate, and succinate. We hypothesized that such specialized glucose catabolism may be a pathoadaptive trait playing a pivotal role in the NTHi airway infection. To find out whether this is true, we engineered and characterized bacterial mutant strains impaired to produce acetate, formate, or succinate by inactivating the ackA, pflA, and frdA genes, respectively. While the inactivation of the pflA and frdA genes only had minimal physiological effects, the inactivation of the ackA gene affected acetate production and led to reduced bacterial growth, production of lactate under low oxygen tension, and bacterial attenuation in vivo. Moreover, bacterially produced acetate was able to stimulate the expression of inflammatory genes by cultured airway epithelial cells. These results back the notion that the COPD lung supports NTHi growth on glucose, enabling production of fermentative end products acting as immunometabolites at the site of infection. Thus, glucose catabolism may contribute not only to NTHi growth but also to bacterially driven airway inflammation. This information has important implications for developing nonantibiotic antimicrobials, given that airway glucose homeostasis modifying drugs could help prevent microbial infections associated with chronic lung disease.