AFA and F17 adhesins produced by pathogenic Escherichia coli strains in domestic animals

Vet Res. Mar-Jun 1999;30(2-3):317-42.


AFA and F17 are afimbrial and fimbrial adhesins, respectively, produced by pathogenic Escherichia coli strains in domestic animals. F17-related fimbriae are mainly detected on bovine and ovine E. coli associated with diarrhoea or septicaemia. The F17-G adhesin subunits recognize N-acetyl-D-glucosamine (GlcNAc) receptors present on bovine intestinal cells. Some F17 subtypes also bind to GlcNAc receptors present on human uroepithelial and intestinal Caco-2 cells or to the laminin contained in the basement of mammalian membranes. F17 is often associated with other virulence factors (aerobactin, serum resistance, CNF2 toxin, K99, CS31A or AFA adhesins) on pathogenic E. coli. A cluster of only four genes is required to synthesize functional F17-related fimbrial structures. The hypothesis of multifunctional F17 fimbrial subunits is supported by the fact that: i) the N-terminal part of the adhesin subunit participates in receptor recognition, whereas the C-terminal part is required for biogenesis of the fimbrial filament; and ii) the interaction between structural and adhesin subunits seems to be crucial for the initiation of monomer polymerization. Recently, determinants related to the afa gene clusters from human pathogenic E. coli associated with intestinal and extra-intestinal infections were identified in strains isolated from calves and piglets with diarrhoea and septicaemia. Two afa-related gene clusters, designated afa-7 and afa-8, that encode afimbrial adhesins were cloned and characterized from bovine pathogenic E. coli. These animal afa gene clusters were plasmid and chromosome borne and were expressed by strains that produced other virulence factors such as CNF toxins, F17, PAP and CS31A adhesins. A high frequency of afa-8 and a low prevalence of afa-7 among bovine E. coli isolates were suggested by preliminary epidemiological studies. As with the human afa gene clusters, the animal ones encode an adhesive structure composed of two proteins: AfaE which mediates adhesion to epithelial cells and AfaD which is an invasin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli / biosynthesis*
  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli / chemistry
  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / microbiology
  • Cattle Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / physiopathology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / veterinary*
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / genetics
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases / microbiology
  • Sheep Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Virulence


  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli