Proteinaceous bacterial adhesins and their receptors

Crit Rev Microbiol. 1983;10(3):229-60. doi: 10.3109/10408418209113564.


The adhesion of bacteria to surfaces is an ecologically important property which enables them to colonize their natural habitats. Adhesion between bacteria mediated by sex pili and aggregation substances may also promote gene transfers. In this review, we describe the adhesive properties of bacteria (to eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells, and inert surfaces) and emphasize the characteristics of adhesins (structure, function, genetics, and morphology) and their cognate receptors on target surfaces. The physiochemical interactions between bacteria and surfaces can be described by the DLVO theory, but the interaction between bacterial adhesins and their receptor is better described as a ligand receptor interaction. The DLVO theory predicts that no physical contact can occur between bacteria and surface and, hence, predicts that adhesins must be filamentous in order to bridge the space between the two bodies and allow attachment of the bacteria. Adhesins are primarily proteinaceous, although adhesins of streptococci may involve dextrans or lipoteichoic acids. The cognate receptors for adhesins all appear to contain carbohydrates and as such as likely to be glycoconjugates with carbohydrate moieties acting as the receptor sites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli
  • Adhesiveness
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Bacterial Proteins / analysis
  • Bacterial Proteins / immunology
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology*
  • Binding Sites
  • Conjugation, Genetic
  • Escherichia coli / physiology
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / physiology
  • Hemagglutination
  • Receptors, Antigen / physiology
  • Streptococcus mutans / physiology
  • Surface Properties


  • Adhesins, Escherichia coli
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Receptors, Antigen