Unique structural features of a bacterial autotransporter adhesin suggest mechanisms for interaction with host macromolecules

Jason J. Paxman, Alvin W. Lo, Matthew J. Sullivan, Santosh Panjikar, Michael Kuiper, Andrew E. Whitten, Geqing Wang, Chi Hao Luan, Danilo G. Moriel, Lendl Tan, Kate M. Peters, Minh Duy Phan, Christine L. Gee, Glen C. Ulett, Mark A. Schembri, Begoña Heras

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Autotransporters are the largest family of outer membrane and secreted proteins in Gram-negative bacteria. Most autotransporters are localised to the bacterial surface where they promote colonisation of host epithelial surfaces. Here we present the crystal structure of UpaB, an autotransporter that is known to contribute to uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) colonisation of the urinary tract. We provide evidence that UpaB can interact with glycosaminoglycans and host fibronectin. Unique modifications to its core β-helical structure create a groove on one side of the protein for interaction with glycosaminoglycans, while the opposite face can bind fibronectin. Our findings reveal far greater diversity in the autotransporter β-helix than previously thought, and suggest that this domain can interact with host macromolecules. The relevance of these interactions during infection remains unclear.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1967
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2019

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