Strains of Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 are Vero cytotoxin-producing enteric pathogens which have been associated with sporadic cases and outbreaks of hemorrhagic colitis and with the hemolytic uremic syndrome in humans. In addition to toxin production, adherence of many pathogenic bacteria to intestinal mucosal surfaces is a critical primary step in the pathogenesis of diarrheal diseases. Although E. coli serotype O157:H7 organisms adhere to intestinal epithelia of orally infected animals in a pattern morphologically identical to that previously described in adherent, effacing E. coli infections, the mechanisms of bacterial adherence are not known. To determine the cell surface adhesins which mediate attachment of E. coli O157:H7 to epithelial surfaces, we evaluated the surface properties of these organisms. Five strains isolated from children with the hemolytic uremic syndrome were grown both in broth cultures and on agar media. Adherence and invasion of E. coli O157:H7 in Intestine 407 and HEp-2 epithelial cell lines was quantitated using an enteroinvasive E. coli strain (serotype O164:NM) as a control. Cell surface properties of E. coli O157:H7 were evaluated by agglutination of a series of erythrocytes, transmission electron microscopy, DEAE-ion-exchange chromatography, and hydrophobic interaction chromatography. E. coli O157:H7 strains adhered to but did not invade either Intestine 407 or HEp-2 cells. Homologous O157:H7 rabbit antiserum blocked attachment of bacteria to tissue culture cells, in contrast to heterologous antiserum and preimmune rabbit serum, which did not inhibit attachment of E. coli O157:H7. None of the five O15:H7 isolates mediated mannose-resistant hemagglutination under any of the in vitro culture conditions. One isolate mediated mannose-sensitive hemagglutination after serial passage in broth cultures. Pili and fibrillae were not visualized by electron microscopy on nonhemagglutinating organisms, but pili were demonstrated on the one isolate which mediated mannose-sensitive hemagglutination. All O157:H7 strains demonstrated high anionic surface charge (DEAE) but low surface hydrophobicity properties (hydrophobic interaction chromatography). The findings suggest that surface structures other than pili can mediate attachment of serotype O157:H7 bacteria to epithelial cells in vitro
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