Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is a common inflammatory disease of the sinonasal cavity mediated, in part, by polymicrobial communities of bacteria. Recent molecular studies have confirmed the importance of Streptococcus pneumoniae and nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) in CRS. Here, we hypothesize that interaction between S. pneumoniae and NTHi mixed-species communities cause a change in bacterial virulence gene expression. We examined CRS as a model human disease to validate these polymicrobial interactions. Clinical strains of S. pneumoniae and NTHi were grown in mono- and co-culture in a standard biofilm assay. Reverse transcriptase real-time PCR (RTqPCR) was used to measure gene expression of key virulence factors. To validate these results, we investigated the presence of the bacterial RNA transcripts in excised human tissue from patients with CRS. Consequences of physical or chemical interactions between microbes were also investigated. Transcription of NTHi type IV pili was only expressed in co-culture in vitro, and expression could be detected ex vivo in diseased tissue. S. pneumoniae pyruvate oxidase was up-regulated in co-culture, while pneumolysin and pneumococcal adherence factor A were down-regulated. These results were confirmed in excised human CRS tissue. Gene expression was differentially regulated by physical contact and secreted factors. Overall, these data suggest that interactions between H. influenzae and S. pneumoniae involve physical and chemical mechanisms that influence virulence gene expression of mixed-species biofilm communities present in chronically diseased human tissue. These results extend previous studies of population-level virulence and provide novel insight into the importance of S. pneumoniae and NTHi in CRS.
ASJC Scopus subject areas