Moraxella catarrhalis Restriction-Modification Systems Are Associated with Phylogenetic Lineage and Disease

Luke V Blakeway, Aimee Tan, Rachael Lappan, Amir Ariff, Janessa L Pickering, Christopher S Peacock, Christopher C Blyth, Charlene M Kahler, Barbara J Chang, Deborah Lehmann, Lea-Ann S Kirkham, Timothy F Murphy, Michael P Jennings, Lauren O Bakaletz, John M Atack, Ian R Peak, Kate L Seib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Moraxella catarrhalis is a human-adapted pathogen, and a major cause of otitis media (OM) and exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The species is comprised of two main phylogenetic lineages, RB1 and RB2/3. Restriction-modification (R-M) systems are among the few lineage-associated genes identified in other bacterial genera and have multiple functions including defense against foreign invading DNA, maintenance of speciation, and epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Here, we define the repertoire of R-M systems in 51 publicly available M. catarrhalis genomes and report their distribution among M. catarrhalis phylogenetic lineages. An association with phylogenetic lineage (RB1 or RB2/3) was observed for six R-M systems, which may contribute to the evolution of the lineages by restricting DNA transformation. In addition, we observed a relationship between a mutually exclusive Type I R-M system and a Type III R-M system at a single locus conserved throughout a geographically and clinically diverse set of M. catarrhalis isolates. The Type III R-M system at this locus contains the phase-variable Type III DNA methyltransferase, modM, which controls a phasevarion (phase-variable regulon). We observed an association between modM presence and OM-associated middle ear isolates, indicating a potential role for ModM-mediated epigenetic regulation in OM pathobiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2932-2946
Number of pages15
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


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