Does Acinetobacter baumannii have an O antigen?
Acinetobacter baumannii is amongst the most troublesome Gram-negative pathogens worldwide, due to strains that are resistant to multiple antibiotics, disinfection and periods of desiccation. Little is known about the virulence mechanisms, though a role for capsule has been demonstrated. Previous analysis of A. baumannii genome sequences identified a region of extensive diversity presumed to be involved in the synthesis of a surface polysaccharide, variously identified as O-antigen or capsule. We used bioinformatic tools to assess whether this polysaccharide is exported as capsule, or ligated to a lipid A-core oligosaccharide moiety to become the O antigen moiety of lipopolysaccharide. A gene for O-antigen ligase was not found, and we propose that A. baumannii strains produce a capsule (and lipid A-core oligosaccharide), but no lipopolysaccharide. 9 capsule types and 3 core types were found in the 10 completed genomes and more in draft genomes. Multiple capsule types were found in members of the 2 major clonal complexes, and this variation may contribute to the success of the A. baumannii clones by factoring in the evasion of the host immune response.