C4BP (C4b-binding protein) is a high-molecular-weight plasma protein that inhibits the classical pathway of complement activation. Recent experiments have demonstrated that C4BP binds to many strains of the gram-positive bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes, a major respiratory tract pathogen. Binding to S. pyogenes was shown to be due to members of the M protein family, a group of surface proteins important for virulence. Here we report that human C4BP also binds to all clinical isolates of the gram-negative bacterium Bordetella pertussis, the etiologic agent of whooping cough. In addition, binding of C4BP was demonstrated for other Bordetella species that can cause disease in humans. Characterization of different B. pertussis mutants showed that the binding of C4BP is strongly dependent on the expression of the cell surface protein filamentous hemagglutinin, a well-known virulence factor. Inhibition experiments suggested that B. pertussis and S. pyogenes bind to the same region in C4BP. The finding that B. pertussis and S. pyogenes both have the ability to bind human C4BP suggests that these two unrelated respiratory tract pathogens may use a common mechanism during the establishment of an infection
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