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J Clin Invest. 1988 Mar;81(3):860-5.

Binding sites in the rat brain for Escherichia coli S fimbriae associated with neonatal meningitis.

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Department of Medical Chemistry, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Escherichia coli strains that cause sepsis and meningitis in neonatal infants carry S fimbriae that bind to sialyl galactoside units of cell surface glycoproteins. To investigate the possible role of S fimbriae in determining the tissue tropism of neonatal meningitis, we have studied the presence of binding sites for S fimbriae in different tissues of the neonatal rat which is susceptible to meningitis caused by S-fimbriated E. coli. Purified S fimbriae were incubated on cryostat sections of different rat organs and their binding was assessed by indirect immunofluorescence. In the brain of the neonatal rat, S fimbriae specifically bound to the luminal surfaces of the vascular endothelium and of the epithelium lining the choroid plexuses and brain ventricles. The binding was completely inhibited by the trisaccharide NeuAc alpha 2-3Gal beta 1-4Glc, a receptor analogue of S fimbriae, and by a preceding neuraminidase treatment of the sections. A recombinant E. coli strain expressing S fimbriae adhered in large numbers to the same tissue sites in the neonatal brain sections as did the purified fimbriae, whereas the non-fimbriated host strain and a recombinant strain expressing P fimbriae did not adhere to brain tissues. The results suggest that adhesion of S-fimbriated bacteria to the binding sites observed in the neonatal brain has a pathogenetic role during bacterial invasion from circulation into the cerebrospinal fluid.

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