Human colostrum contains IgA antibodies reactive to enteropathogenic Escherichia coli virulence-associated proteins: intimin, BfpA, EspA, and EspB

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1998 Aug;27(2):166-71. doi: 10.1097/00005176-199808000-00007.


Background: In Brazil, enteropathogenic Escherichia coli diarrhoea is endemic among infants born into low economic levels, and it is one of the main causes of morbidity and mortality in this group. Binding of enteropathogenic E. coli to the brush border mucosa triggers a cascade of transmembrane and intracellular signals, causing cytoskeletal reorganization and formation of a specific lesion, termed the attaching and effacing lesion. Several enteropathogenic E. coli gene products have been implicated in formation of attaching and effacing lesions. Evaluation of pathogen-specific protective factors shows that breast feeding is effective against enteropathogenic E. coli infection. To investigate the nature of the protection, defatted colostrum and secretory immunoglobulin A obtained from mothers living in Sao Paulo were investigated for the ability to recognise selected enteropathogenic E. coli-associated virulence factors.

Methods: Western blot analysis was used to investigate the IgA repertoire in pooled colostrum that is reactive with specific enteropathogenic E. coli proteins. Whole enteropathogenic E. coli bacterial cell extracts, nonpathogenic E. coli strains overexpressing specific virulence factors, and purified polypeptides were used as antigen sources in this study.

Results: Reaction of the colostrum samples in Western blots of whole bacterial cell extracts and selected purified enteropathogenic E. coli proteins showed that they contained a secretory immunoglobulin A reactive with all the virulence-associated proteins studied.

Conclusion: These results suggest that maternal antibodies may protect infants from enteropathogenic E. coli infection by interfering with adherence processes (anti-intimin and anti-bundle-forming pili antibodies) and cell signaling (anti-enteropathogenic Escherichia coli-secreted protein A and B antibodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Bacterial*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / immunology
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / immunology
  • Bacterial Proteins / immunology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brazil
  • Carrier Proteins*
  • Colostrum / immunology*
  • Escherichia coli / immunology*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins*
  • Female
  • Fimbriae Proteins*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / analysis*
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • BfpA protein, E coli
  • Carrier Proteins
  • EaeB protein, E coli
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • EspA protein, E coli
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • eaeA protein, E coli
  • Fimbriae Proteins