U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Infection and Immunity (1996), 64(6), p. 2225-2233


Intimin, the product of the eaeA gene in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 (EHEC), is required for intimate adherence of these organisms to tissue culture cells and formation of the attaching and effacing lesion in the gnotobiotic pig. Because of the importance of intimin in the pathogenesis of EHEC O157:H7 infection in this animal model, we began a structure-function analysis of EaeA. For this purpose, we constructed amino-terminal fusions of the intimin protein with six histidine residues to form two independent fusions. The longer fusion, RIHisEae, contained 900 of the 935 predicted amino acids and included all but the extreme amino terminus. The second fusion, RVHdHisEae, consisted of the carboxyl two-thirds of the protein. Purified extracts of either construct enhanced binding of wild-type 86-24 to HEp-2 cells and conferred HEp-2 cell adherence on 86-24eaeΔ10, an eaeA deletion mutant, and B2F1, an EHEC O91:H21 eaeA mutant strain. When 86-24eaeΔ10 was transformed with either of the plasmids encoding the intimin fusion proteins, the transformant behaved like the wild-type parent strain and displayed localized adherence to HEp-2 cells, with positive fluorescent-actin staining. In addition, polyclonal antisera raised against RIHisEae reacted with both fusion constructs and recognized an outer membrane protein of the same mass as intimin (97 kDa) in EHEC and enteropathogenic E. coli but not E. coli K-12. The intimin-specific antisera also blocked adherence of EHEC to HEp-2 cells. Thus, intimin (i) is a 97-kDa outer membrane protein in EHEC that serves as a requisite adhesin for attachment of the bacteria to epithelial cells, even when the protein is truncated by one-third at its amino terminus and (ii) can be added exogenously to specifically facilitate HEp-2 cell adherence of EHEC but not E. coli K-12.