Molecular mimicry of Campylobacter jejuni lipo-oligosaccharides (LOS) with gangliosides in nervous tissue is considered to induce cross-reactive antibodies that lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an acute polyneuropathy. To determine whether specific bacterial genes are crucial for the biosynthesis of ganglioside-like structures and the induction of anti-ganglioside antibodies, we characterized the C. jejuni LOS biosynthesis gene locus in GBS-associated and control strains. We demonstrated that specific types of the LOS biosynthesis gene locus are associated with GBS and with the expression of ganglioside-mimicking structures. Campylobacter knockout mutants of 2 potential GBS marker genes, both involved in LOS sialylation, expressed truncated LOS structures without sialic acid, showed reduced reactivity with GBS patient serum, and failed to induce an anti-ganglioside antibody response in mice. We demonstrate, for the first time, to our knowledge, that specific bacterial genes are crucial for the induction of anti-ganglioside antibodies.


Peggy C.R. Godschalk, Astrid P. Heikema, Michel Gilbert, Tomoko Komagamine, C. Wim Ang, Jobine Glerum, Denis Brochu, Jianjun Li, Nobuhiro Yuki, Bart C. Jacobs, Alex van Belkum, Hubert P. Endtz


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