The hypermucoviscosity of hypervirulent K. pneumoniae confers the ability to evade neutrophil-mediated phagocytosis

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2050-2059
Journal / PublicationVirulence
Issue number1
Online published2 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021



Hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae (HvKP), which causes highly fatal infections, is a new threat to human health. In an attempt to investigate the underlying mechanisms of resistance to neutrophil-mediated killing and hence expression of high-level virulence by HvKP, we tested the binding affinity of HvKP strains to various types of human cells. Our data showed that HvKP exhibited weaker binding to both lung epithelial cells, intestinal Caco-2 cells and macrophages when compared to the classic, non-hypervirulent strains (cKP). Consistently, transconjugants that have acquired a rmpA or rmpA2-bearing plasmid were found to exhibit decreased adhesion to various types of human cells, and hence higher survival rate upon exposure to neutrophil cells. We further found that over production of hypermucoviscosity (HMV), but not capsular polysaccharide (CPS), contributed to the reduced binding and phagocytosis. The effect of hypermucoviscosity on enhancing HvKP virulence was further shown in human serum survival assays and animal experiments. Findings in this study therefore confirmed that rmpA/A2-mediated hypermucoviscosity in HvKP plays a key role in the pathogenesis of this organism through conferring the ability to evade neutrophil binding and phagocytosis.

Research Area(s)

  • capsule, hypermucoviscosity, Hypervirulent K. pneumoniae, neutrophil cells, phagocytosis

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