Morphological and serological relationships of conjugative pili

Plasmid. 1980 Sep;4(2):155-69. doi: 10.1016/0147-619x(80)90005-0.


It is now known that conjugative pili are determined by representative plasmids for all incompatibility groups in Escherichia coli K-12. They fall into three basic morphological groups, which are described: thin flexible, thick flexible, and rigid filaments or rods. The main thrust of this study, however, has been the use of immune electron microscopy to survey pili of all established incompatibility groups for serological cross-reactions. Morphologically identical thin flexible pili were determined by plasmids of the I complex, as well as IncB and IncK. Immune electron microscopy revealed two unrelated serotypes typified by Ia and I2 pili; K and B pili belonged to the first serotype. Thick flexible pili were determined by plasmids of Inc groups C, D, the F complex, H1, H2, J, T, V, X, com9, the single plasmid F0 lac, and the unclassified plasmid R687. Serological tests showed that C pili were related to J pili, H1 pili to H2 pili, com9 pili to F0 lac pili, and R687 pili to D pili, the remainder being unrelated. Rigid pili were determined by plasmids of Inc groups M, N, P, W, and by the unclassified plasmids R775, RA3, and pAr-32. The only relationship detected was between RA3 and pAr-32 pili. No cross reactions were found between pili of the three different morphological groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Conjugation, Genetic
  • Escherichia coli / classification
  • Escherichia coli / immunology
  • Escherichia coli / ultrastructure*
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / classification*
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / immunology
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / ultrastructure
  • Immunologic Techniques
  • Microscopy, Electron


  • Antibodies, Bacterial