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Infect Immun. 1998 Apr;66(4):1570-8.

Role of intimin and bundle-forming pili in enteropathogenic Escherichia coli adhesion to pediatric intestinal tissue in vitro.

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  • 1University Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Royal Free Hospital, London, United Kingdom.


Attaching and effacing (A/E) lesion formation is central to enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) pathogenesis. In vitro experiments with human epithelial cell lines have implicated virulence plasmid-encoded bundle-forming pili (BFP) in initial binding and intimin in intimate attachment and A/E lesion formation. This study investigated the role of BFP and intimin in EPEC interactions with pediatric small intestinal biopsy tissue in in vitro organ culture. Organ culture infections (2 to 8 h) were performed with E2348/69 (a wild-type EPEC O127:H6 clinical isolate) and E2348/69 derivatives including CVD206 (eae deficient), CVD206(pCVD438) (eae-complemented CVD206), CVD206(pCVD438/01) (expressing intimin, which is nonfunctional due to a single amino acid substitution), JPN15 (spontaneous EPEC adherence factor virulence plasmid-cured E2348/69), and 31-6-1(1) (E2348/69 with a TnphoA insertion inactivation mutation in the virulence plasmid-encoded bfpA gene). Scanning and transmission electron microscopy revealed that after 8 h E2348/69 and CVD206 (pCVD438) (both Int+ BFP+) adhered to all specimens, causing A/E lesions with surrounding microvillous elongation. JPN15 and 31-6-1(1) (both Int+ BFP-) adhered and caused A/E lesions although bacteria adhered in "flat," two-dimensional groups. CVD206 and CVD206(pCVD438/01) (both Int- BFP+) did not adhere to any sample, and no pathological tissue changes were seen. Thus, in human intestinal organ culture, BFP do not appear to be involved in the initial stages of EPEC nonintimate adhesion but are implicated in the formation of complex, three-dimensional colonies via bacterium-bacterium interactions. Intimin appears to play an essential role in establishing colonization of EPEC on pediatric small intestinal tissue.

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