Down regulation of intimin expression during attaching and effacing enteropathogenic Escherichia coli adhesion

Stuart Knutton, Jeannette Adu-Bobie, Christopher Bain, Alan D. Phillips, Gordon Dougan, Gad Frankel

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Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) produces attaching and effacing (A/E) lesions in the intestinal mucosa. The intimate bacterial adhesion associated with A/E lesion formation is promoted by intimin, a 94- kDa EPEC surface protein. Anti-intimin antisera raised in rabbits by using the purified 280-amino-acid cell binding domain of intimin as the immunogen were employed in immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopical studies to investigate the expression of intimin by classical EPEC strain E2348/69 (O127:H6) and defined E2348/69 derivatives during culture growth and A/E bacterium adhesion to cultured HEp-2 cells. In stationary-phase broth cultures, only a small fraction of E2348/69 bacteria expressed intimin, and of those that did, immunolabelling revealed a uniform distribution of intimin over the bacterial surface; increased numbers of bacteria expressing intimin were detected when E2348/69 was grown in tissue culture medium, an effect not seen with strain JPN15, a virulence plasmid-cured derivative of E2348/69. Strain CVD206, an eaeA mutant of E2348/69, did not stain with the anti-intimin antisera, but strain CVD206(pCVD438), containing a functional eaeA gene, stained uniformly. After a 3-h incubation of HEp-2 cells with strain E2348/69, double immunofluorescence labelling of intimin and cellular actin revealed strong intimin expression by all A/E bacteria, but after 6 h of incubation, intimin expression by most E2348/69 bacteria was greatly reduced or not detected. This effect on intimin expression was not observed with strain JPN15 but was restored for strain JPN15(pCVD450) harboring the virulence plasmid-encoded per genes. These results indicate that surface expression of intimin is regulated by environmental factors during bacterial growth and following A/E lesion formation and that virulence plasmid- encoded genes participate in these regulation processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1644-1652
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 1997
Externally publishedYes

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