Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC), increasingly recognized as an important cause of infant and travelers' diarrhoea, exhibits an aggregative, stacked-brick pattern of adherence to epithelial cells. Adherence is mediated by aggregative adherence fimbriae (AAFs), which are encoded on the pAA virulence plasmid. We recently described a highly prevalent pAA plasmid-borne gene, aap, which encodes a protein (nicknamed dispersin) that is secreted to the bacterial cell surface. Dispersin-null mutants display a unique hyper-aggregating phenotype, accompanied by collapse of AAF pili onto the bacterial cell surface. To study the mechanism of this effect, we solved the structure of dispersin from EAEC strain 042 using solution NMR, revealing a stable beta-sandwich with a conserved net positive surface charge of +3 to +4 among 23 dispersin alleles. Experimental data suggest that dispersin binds non-covalently to lipopolysaccharide on the surface of the bacterium. We also show that the AAF organelles contribute positive charge to the bacterial surface, suggesting that dispersin's role in fimbrial function is to overcome electrostatic attraction between AAF and the bacterial surface.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology