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Characterization of Encapsulated and Noncapsulated Haemophilus influenzae and Determination of Phylogenetic Relationships by Multilocus Sequence Typing

, , , , , , , and . J. Clin. Microbiol. 41 (4): 1623--1636 (April 2003)


A multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme has been developed for the unambiguous characterization of encapsulated and noncapsulated Haemophilus influenzae isolates. The sequences of internal fragments of seven housekeeping genes were determined for 131 isolates, comprising a diverse set of 104 serotype a, b, c, d, e, and f isolates and 27 noncapsulated isolates. Many of the encapsulated isolates had previously been characterized by multilocus enzyme electrophoresis (MLEE), and the validity of the MLST scheme was established by the very similar clustering of isolates obtained by these methods. Isolates of serotypes c, d, e, and f formed monophyletic groups on a dendrogram constructed from the differences in the allelic profiles of the isolates, whereas there were highly divergent lineages of both serotype a and b isolates. Noncapsulated isolates were distinct from encapsulated isolates and, with one exception, were within two highly divergent clusters. The relationships between the major lineages of encapsulated H. influenzae inferred from MLEE data could not be discerned on a dendrogram constructed from differences in the allelic profiles, but were apparent on a tree reconstructed from the concatenated nucleotide sequences. Recombination has not therefore completely eliminated phylogenetic signal, and in support of this, for encapsulated isolates, there was significant congruence between many of the trees reconstructed from the sequences of the seven individual loci. Congruence was less apparent for noncapsulated isolates, suggesting that the impact of recombination is greater among noncapsulated than encapsulated isolates. The H. influenzae MLST scheme is available at, it allows any isolate to be compared with those in the MLST database, and (for encapsulated isolates) it assigns isolates to their phylogenetic lineage, via the Internet.

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