A novel link between Campylobacter jejuni bacteriophage defence, virulence and Guillain-Barré syndrome

R. Louwen, D. Horst-Kreft, A.G. de Boer, L. van der Graaf, G. de Knegt, M. Hamersma, A.P. Heikema, A.R. Timms, B.C. Jacobs, J.A. Wagenaar, H.P. Endtz, J. van der Oost, J. Wells, E.E.S. Nieuwenhuis, A.H. van Vliet, P.T.J. Willemsen, P. van Baarlen, A. van Belkum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

125 Citations (Scopus)


Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) is a post-infectious disease in which the human peripheral nervous system is affected after infection by specific pathogenic bacteria, including Campylobacter jejuni. GBS is suggested to be provoked by molecular mimicry between sialylated lipooligosaccharide (LOS) structures on the cell envelope of these bacteria and ganglioside epitopes on the human peripheral nerves, resulting in autoimmune-driven nerve destruction. Earlier, the C. jejuni sialyltransferase (Cst-II) was found to be linked to GBS and demonstrated to be involved in the biosynthesis of the ganglioside-like LOS structures. Apart from a role in pathogenicity, we report here that Cst-II-generated ganglioside-like LOS structures confer efficient bacteriophage resistance in C. jejuni. By bioinformatic analysis, it is revealed that the presence of sialyltransferases in C. jejuni and other potential GBS-related pathogens correlated significantly with the apparent degeneration of an alternative anti-virus system: type II Clusters of Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat and associated genes (CRISPR-Cas). Molecular analysis of the C. jejuni CRISPR-Cas system confirmed the bioinformatic investigation. CRISPR degeneration and mutations in the cas genes cas2, cas1 and csn1 were found to correlate with Cst-II sialyltransferase presence (p¿
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-226
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • neisseria-meningitidis
  • sialic-acid
  • haemophilus-influenzae
  • pasteurella-multocida
  • molecular mimicry
  • antiganglioside antibodies
  • pseudomonas-aeruginosa
  • natural transformation
  • lipo-oligosaccharide
  • pathogenic neisseria


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