Differential binding of Escherichia coli O157:H7 to alfalfa, human epithelial cells, and plastic is mediated by a variety of surface structures

Alfredo G. Torres, Cecelia Jeter, William Langley, Ann G. Matthysse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Escherichia coli O157:H7 carried on plant surfaces, including alfalfa sprouts, has been implicated in food poisoning and outbreaks of disease in the United States. Adhesion to cell surfaces is a key component for bacterial establishment and colonization on many types of surfaces. Several E. coli O157:H7 surface proteins are thought to be important for adhesion and/or biofilm formation. Therefore, we examined whether mutations in several genes encoding potential adhesins and regulators of adherence have an effect on bacterial binding to plants and also examined the role of these genes during adhesion to Caco-2 cells and during biofilm formation on plastic in vitro. The genes tested included those encoding adhesins (cah, aidA1, and ompA) and mediators of hyperadherence (tdcA,yidE, waaI, and cadA) and those associated with fimbria formation (csgA, csgD, and lpfD2). The introduction of some of these genes (cah, aidA1, and csg loci) into an E. coli K-12 strain markedly increased its ability to bind to alfalfa sprouts and seed coats. The addition of more than one of these genes did not show an additive effect. In contrast, deletion of one or more of these genes in a strain of E. coli O157:H7 did not affect its ability to bind to alfalfa. Only the absence of the ompA gene had a significant effect on binding, and the plant-bacterium interaction was markedly reduced in a tdcA ompA double mutant. In contrast, the E. coli O157:H7 ompA and tdcA ompA mutant strains were only slightly affected in adhesion to Caco-2 cells and during biofilm formation. These findings suggest that some adhesins alone are sufficient to promote binding to alfalfa and that they may exist in E. coli O157:H7 as redundant systems, allowing it to compensate for the loss of one or more of these systems. Binding to the three types of surfaces appeared to be mediated by overlapping but distinct sets of genes. The only gene which appeared to be irreplaceable for binding to plant surfaces was ompA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8008-8015
Number of pages8
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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