Shear-dependent 'stick-and-roll' adhesion of type 1 fimbriated Escherichia coli

Mol Microbiol. 2004 Sep;53(5):1545-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04226.x.


It is generally assumed that bacteria are washed off surfaces as fluid flow increases because they adhere through 'slip-bonds' that weaken under mechanical force. However, we show here that the opposite is true for Escherichia coli attachment to monomannose-coated surfaces via the type 1 fimbrial adhesive subunit, FimH. Raising the shear stress (within the physiologically relevant range) increased accumulation of type 1 fimbriated bacteria on monomannose surfaces by up to two orders of magnitude, and reducing the shear stress caused them to detach. In contrast, bacterial binding to anti-FimH antibody-coated surfaces showed essentially the opposite behaviour, detaching when the shear stress was increased. These results can be explained if FimH is force-activated; that is, that FimH mediates 'catch-bonds' with mannose that are strengthened by tensile mechanical force. As a result, on monomannose-coated surfaces, bacteria displayed a complex 'stick-and-roll' adhesion in which they tended to roll over the surface at low shear but increasingly halted to stick firmly as the shear was increased. Mutations in FimH that were predicted earlier to increase or decrease force-induced conformational changes in FimH were furthermore shown here to increase or decrease the probability that bacteria exhibited the stationary versus the rolling mode of adhesion. This 'stick-and-roll' adhesion could allow type 1 fimbriated bacteria to move along mannosylated surfaces under relatively low flow conditions and to accumulate preferentially in high shear regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli / chemistry
  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Adhesion / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli / cytology
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Fimbriae Proteins / chemistry
  • Fimbriae Proteins / genetics
  • Fimbriae Proteins / metabolism*
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Mannose / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Surface Properties


  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli
  • fimH protein, E coli
  • Fimbriae Proteins
  • Mannose