Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-29-2011

Publication Title

Journal of Bacteriology

Abstract

Colonization of the human small intestine by Vibrio cholerae is an essential step in pathogenesis that requires the type IV toxin-coregulated pilus (TCP). To date, three functions of TCP have been characterized: it serves as the CTXΦ receptor, secretes the colonization factor TcpF, and functions in microcolony formation by mediating bacterium-bacterium interactions. Although type IV pili in other pathogenic bacteria have been characterized as playing a major role in attachment to epithelial cells, there are very few studies to suggest that TCP acts as an attachment factor. Taking this into consideration, we investigated the function of TCP in attachment to Caco-2 cells and found that mutants lacking TCP were defective in attachment compared to the wild type. Overexpression of ToxT, the activator of TCP, significantly increased attachment of wild-type V. cholerae to Caco-2 cells. Using field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM), we also observed TCP-mediated attachment to the small intestines of infected infant mice by using antibodies specific to TCP and V. cholerae. Remarkably, we also visualized matrices comprised of TCP appearing to engulf V. cholerae during infection, and we demonstrated that these matrices protected the bacteria from a component of bile, disclosing a possible new role of this pilus in protection of the bacterial cells from antimicrobial agents. This study provides new insights into TCP's function in V. cholerae colonization of the small intestine, describing additional roles in mediating attachment and protection of V. cholerae bacterial cells.

DOI

10.1128/JB.00378-11

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