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Nature. 1992 Mar 19;356(6366):252-5.

P pili in uropathogenic E. coli are composite fibres with distinct fibrillar adhesive tips.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.


Escherichia coli is a frequent cause of several common bacterial infections in humans and animals, including urinary tract infections, bacteraemia and bacteria-related diarrhoea and is also the main cause of neonatal meningitis. Microbial attachment to surfaces is a key event in colonization and infection and results mainly from a stereochemical fit between microbial adhesins and complementary receptors on host cells. Bacterial adhesins required for extracellular colonization by Gram-negative bacteria are often minor components of heteropolymeric fibres called pili which must be oriented in an accessible manner in these structures to be able to bind to specific receptor architectures. P pili mediate the binding of uropathogenic E. coli to a digalactoside receptor determinant present in the urinary tract epithelium. We report here that the adhesin is a component of distinct fibrillar structures present at the tips of the pili. These virulence-associated tip fibrillae are thin, flexible polymers composed mostly of repeating subunits of PapE that frequently terminate with the alpha-D-galactopyranosyl-(1-4)-beta-D-galactopyranose or Gal alpha (1-4)Gal binding PapG adhesin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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