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Infect Immun. 1989 Apr;57(4):1290-8.

Actin accumulation at sites of bacterial adhesion to tissue culture cells: basis of a new diagnostic test for enteropathogenic and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Institute of Child Health, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.


Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) and enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) adhere to the intestinal mucosa and produce an attaching and effacing (AE) lesion in the brush border microvillous membrane; the AE lesion is characterized by localized destruction of microvilli and intimate attachment of bacteria to the apical enterocyte membrane. A similar lesion is seen when bacteria adhere in vitro to a variety of human tissue culture cell lines. In both cases, dense concentrations of microfilaments are present in the apical cytoplasm beneath attached bacteria. Using a fluorescein-labeled phallotoxin, we have shown that these microfilaments are composed of actin. Cells infected with EPEC and EHEC strains known from electron microscopic studies to produce the AE lesion all exhibited intense spots of fluorescence which corresponded in size and position with each adherent bacterium; cells infected with adherent E. coli strains known not to produce the AE lesion did not produce this striking pattern of fluorescence and were indistinguishable from uninfected control cells. These results indicate that such site-specific concentrations of cytoskeletal actin are characteristic of the AE membrane lesion and can form the basis of a simple, highly sensitive diagnostic test for EPEC and EHEC.

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