Human milk lactoferrin inactivates two putative colonization factors expressed by Haemophilus influenzae

Jiazhou Qiu, David R. Hendrixson, Edward N. Baker, Timothy F. Murphy, Joseph W. St. Geme, Andrew G. Plaut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Haemophilus influenzae is a major cause of otitis media and other respiratory tract disease in children. The pathogenesis of disease begins with colonization of the upper respiratory mucosa, a process that involves evasion of local immune mechanisms and adherence to epithelial cells. Several studies have demonstrated that human milk is protective against H. influenzae colonization and disease. In the present study, we examined the effect of human milk on the H. influenzae IgA1 protease and Hap adhesin, two autotransported proteins that are presumed to facilitate colonization. Our results demonstrated that human milk lactoferrin efficiently extracted the IgA1 protease preprotein from the bacterial outer membrane. In addition, lactoferrin specifically degraded the Hap adhesin and abolished Hap-mediated adherence. Extraction of IgA1 protease and degradation of Hap were localized to the N-lobe of the bilobed lactoferrin molecule and were inhibited by serine protease inhibitors, suggesting that the lactoferrin N-lobe may contain serine protease activity. Additional experiments revealed no effect of lactoferrin on the H. influenzae P2, PS, and P6 outer-membrane proteins, which are distinguished from IgA1 protease and Hap by the lack of an N- terminal passenger domain or an extracellular linker region. These results suggest that human milk lactoferrin may attenuate the pathogenic potential of H. influenzae by selectively inactivating IgA1 protease and Hap, thereby interfering with colonization. Future studies should examine the therapeutic potential of lactoferrin, perhaps as a supplement in infant formulas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12641-12646
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - Oct 13 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Human milk lactoferrin inactivates two putative colonization factors expressed by Haemophilus influenzae'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this