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Escherichia coli Common Pilus (ECP) Targets Arabinosyl Residues in Plant Cell Walls to Mediate Adhesion to Fresh Produce Plants

Lookup NU author(s): Professor William WillatsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Outbreaks of verotoxigenic Escherichia coli are often associated with fresh produce. However, the molecular basis to adherence is unknown beyond ionic lipid-flagellum interactions in plant cell membranes. We demonstrate that arabinans present in different constituents of plant cell walls are targeted for adherence by E. coli common pilus (ECP; or meningitis-associated and temperature-regulated (Mat) fimbriae) for E. coli serotypes O157:H7 and O18:K1:H7. l-Arabinose is a common constituent of plant cell wall that is rarely found in other organisms, whereas ECP is widespread in E. coli and other environmental enteric species. ECP bound to oligosaccharides of at least arabinotriose or longer in a glycan array, plant cell wall pectic polysaccharides, and plant glycoproteins. Recognition overlapped with the antibody LM13, which binds arabinanase-sensitive pectic epitopes, and showed a preferential affinity for (1→5)-α-linked l-arabinosyl residues and longer chains of arabinan as demonstrated with the use of arabinan-degrading enzymes. Functional adherence in planta was mediated by the adhesin EcpD in combination with the structural subunit, EcpA, and expression was demonstrated with an ecpR–GFP fusion and ECP antibodies. Spinach was found to be enriched for ECP/LM13 targets compared with lettuce. Specific recognition of arabinosyl residues may help explain the persistence of E. coli in the wider environment and association of verotoxigenic E. coli with some fresh produce plants by exploitation of a glycan found only in plant, not animal, cells.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rossez Y, Holmes A, Lodberg-Pedersen H, Birse L, Marshall J, Willats WGT, Toth IK, Holden NJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: The Journal of Biological Chemistry

Year: 2014

Volume: 289

Issue: 49

Pages: 34349-34365

Print publication date: 05/12/2014

Online publication date: 15/10/2014

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

Date deposited: 17/02/2017

ISSN (electronic): 1083-351X


DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M114.587717


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