When Escherichia coli O157:H7 bacteria are added to alfalfa sprouts growing in water, the bacteria bind tightly to the sprouts. In contrast, laboratory K-12 strains of E. coli do not bind to sprouts under similar conditions. The roles of E. coli O157:H7 lipopolysaccharide (LPS), capsular polysaccharide, and exopolysaccharides in binding to sprouts were examined. An LPS mutant had no effect on the binding of the pathogenic strain. Cellulose synthase mutants showed a significant reduction in binding; colanic acid mutants were more severely reduced, and binding by poly-β-1,6-N-acetylglucosamine (PGA) mutants was barely detectable. The addition of a plasmid carrying a cellulose synthase gene to K-12 strains allowed them to bind to sprouts. A plasmid carrying the Bps biosynthesis genes had only a marginal effect on the binding of K-12 bacteria. However, the introduction of the same plasmid allowed Sinorhizobium meliloti and a nonbinding mutant of Agrobacterium tumefaciens to bind to tomato root segments. These results suggest that although multiple redundant protein adhesins are involved in the binding of E. coli O157:H7 to sprouts, the polysaccharides required for binding are not redundant and each polysaccharide may play a distinct role. PGA, colanic acid, and cellulose were also required for biofilm formation by a K-12 strain on plastic, but not for the binding of E. coli O157:H7 to mammalian cells
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