Autoaggregation is a phenomenon thought to contribute to colonization of mammalian hosts by pathogenic bacteria. Type 1 fimbriae are surface organelles of Escherichia coli that mediate D-mannose-sensitive binding to various host surfaces. This binding is conferred by the minor fimbrial component FimH. In this study, we have used random mutagenesis to identify variants of the FimH adhesin that confer the ability of E. coli to autoaggregate and settle from liquid cultures. Three separate autoaggregating clones were identified, all of which contained multiple amino acid changes located within the N- terminal receptor-binding domain of FimH. Autoaggregation could not be inhibited by mannose, but was inhibited by growth at temperatures at or below 30 degreesC. Using green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a reporter, we show that the autoaggregating clones do not mix with wild-type fimbriated cells. Electron microscopy shows that autoaggregating cells produce fimbriae with a twisted and entangled appearance. We present evidence that autoaggregating versions of FimH also occur in nature. Our results stress the highly adaptive nature of the ubiquitous FimH adhesin.
|Publication status||Published - 2001|