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Microb Pathog. 2008 Aug;45(2):115-23. doi: 10.1016/j.micpath.2008.04.006. Epub 2008 May 2.

The serine protease motif of Pic mediates a dose-dependent mucolytic activity after binding to sugar constituents of the mucin substrate.

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Department of Cell Biology, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados (CINVESTAV-IPN), Zacatenco, México, DF, Mexico.


The pic gene is harbored on the chromosomes of three important pathogens: enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC), uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), and Shigella flexneri. Since Pic is secreted into the intestinal lumen during EAEC infection, we sought to identify intestinal-mucosal substrates for Pic. Pic did not damage epithelial cells, cleave fodrin, or degrade host defense proteins embedded in the mucus layer (sIgA, lactoferrin and lysozyme). However, by using a solid-phase assay to evaluate the mucinolytic activity of EAEC Pic, we documented a specific, dose-dependent mucinolytic activity. A serine protease inhibitor and an enzymatically inactive variant of Pic were used to show that the Pic serine protease motif is required for mucinolytic activity. Pic binds mucin, and this binding was blocked in competition assays using monosaccharide constituents of the oligosaccharide side chains of mucin. Moreover, Pic mucinolytic activity decreased when sialic acid was removed from mucin. Thus, Pic is a mucinase with lectin-like activity that can be related to its reported hemagglutinin activity. Our results suggest that EAEC may secrete Pic into the intestinal lumen as a strategy for penetrating the gel-like mucus layer during EAEC colonization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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