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Microbiology. 2010 Aug;156(Pt 8):2459-2469. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.039024-0. Epub 2010 May 6.

Autotransporters of Escherichia coli: a sequence-based characterization.

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Centre for Infectious Disease Research, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.


Autotransporter (AT) proteins are found in all Escherichia coli pathotypes and are often associated with virulence. In this study we took advantage of the large number of available E. coli genome sequences to perform an in-depth bioinformatic analysis of AT-encoding genes. Twenty-eight E. coli genome sequences were probed using an iterative approach, which revealed a total of 215 AT-encoding sequences that represented three major groups of distinct domain architecture: (i) serine protease AT proteins, (ii) trimeric AT adhesins and (iii) AIDA-I-type AT proteins. A number of subgroups were identified within each broad category, and most subgroups contained at least one characterized AT protein; however, seven subgroups contained no previously described proteins. The AIDA-I-type AT proteins represented the largest and most diverse group, with up to 16 subgroups identified from sequence-based comparisons. Nine of the AIDA-I-type AT protein subgroups contained at least one protein that possessed functional properties associated with aggregation and/or biofilm formation, suggesting a high degree of redundancy for this phenotype. The Ag43, YfaL/EhaC, EhaB/UpaC and UpaG subgroups were found in nearly all E. coli strains. Among the remaining subgroups, there was a tendency for AT proteins to be associated with individual E. coli pathotypes, suggesting that they contribute to tissue tropism or symptoms specific to different disease outcomes.

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