Uropathogenic Escherichia coli can express serologically identical pili of different receptor binding specificities

Mol Microbiol. 1988 Mar;2(2):255-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.1988.tb00027.x.


Uropathogenic Escherichia coli frequently express P-pilus adhesins that recognize Gal alpha (1-4)Gal-containing glycoconjugates. The P-pilus adhesin of the E. coli isolate J96 is encoded by the pap gene cluster and has been shown to agglutinate P1-erythrocytes. We now describe a novel gene cluster from J96, prs, which is responsible for the agglutination of sheep erythrocytes. The structurally related gene clusters both expressed pili exhibiting the F13 antigen. Analysis of mutants of cloned prs sequences, together with trans-complementation of pap and prs genes, identified the sheep-specific adhesin as the 37-kD PrsG protein. The prsG gene occupies the equivalent position in prs as occupied by papG, which specifies the Gal alpha (1-4)Gal-specific adhesin of pap. PrsG was shown to be structurally distinct from PapG since PapG-specific antiserum did not cross-react with PrsG. Using a solid phase glycolipid receptor binding assay, PrsG was found to specify preferential binding to the Forssman antigen, a major constituent of sheep erythrocyte membranes. The binding epitope was identified as the GaINAc alpha (1-3)GaINAc moiety. This is the first direct evidence that serologically identical pili may present antigenically distinct adhesins, each capable of binding to a specific receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Adhesion*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / physiology*
  • Genes*
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Hemagglutination
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Sheep
  • Urinary Tract Infections / microbiology


  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins