The transfer of choline from the host to the bacterial cell surface requires glpQ in Haemophilus influenzae
Haemophilus influenzae incorporates choline obtained from environmental sources onto its lipopolysaccharide as phosphorylcholine (ChoP). The decoration of the bacterial surface with ChoP contributes to pathogenesis by allowing for mimicry of the host. As the main reservoir for choline in the host is phosphatidylcholine, we tested whether other choline-containing molecules associated with eukaryotic membranes could provide an alternative source of choline. H. influenzae was able to use glycerophosphorylcholine (GPC), an abundant degradation product of phospholipids, as efficiently as free choline. Utilization of GPC required glpQ, which expresses an enzyme with glycerophosphodiester phosphodiesterase activity. In the absence of free choline, this gene was required for adherent H. influenzae to obtain choline directly from epithelial cells in culture. GlpQ therefore allows choline to be transferred from the host to the bacterial cell surface.