Intimin-Tir Interaction in Enterohemorrhagic E. coli: A Dissertation

Publication Date

May 2000

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Genetics & Microbiology


Escherichia coli O157; Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins; Academic Dissertations; Dissertations, UMMS


Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) has emerged as an important agent of diarrheal disease in the developed countries. Attachment to host cells, an essential step during intestinal colonization by EHEC, is associated with the formation of a highly organized cytoskeletal structure containing filamentous actin, termed attaching and effacing (A/E) lesion, directly beneath bound bacteria. The outer membrane protein, intimin, is required for the formation of this structure, as is Tir, a bacterial protein that is translocated into the host cell and thought to function as a receptor for intimin.

In this thesis, we characterized A/E lesion formation by in vivo and in vitro-grown EHEC, aimed at testing whether bacterial adaptation to the mammalian host included up regulation of A/E lesion formation. Our results showed that actin signaling by EHEC was induced upon bacterial growth in vivo, and this induction was likely due to the up regulation of multiple activities by in vivo-grown EHEC.

We also focused on the interaction between intimin and the host cell, an interaction that triggers actin condensation of A/E lesion formation. We evaluated the role of β1 integrins, one of the proposed receptors of intimin, in A/E lesion formation, and demonstrated that β1 integrins are not essential for intimin-mediated cell binding and actin condensation. To better understand intimin function, we mapped the functional domains of intimin, showed that the minimal cell binding domain of intimin correlates with the minimal Tir-binding domain. This minimal Tir-binding domain, when purified and coated on latex beads, was sufficient to trigger actin condensation on preinfected mammalian cells, suggesting that Tir-binding by intimin is critical in the final step of A/E lesion formation. To further demonstrate the significance of the interaction between intimin and Tir in A/E lesion formation, we developed a yeast two-hybrid system to identify intimin mutants diminished in Tir-binding, and then characterized those mutants for the ability to trigger actin condensation, the final step of A/E lesion formation.

Finally, as a first step to study the downstream actin signaling pathway after Tir-binding, we mapped the domain of Tir involved in intimin-binding, and showed that the N-terminus and C-terminus of Tir are likely to be localized in the host cell cytoplasm, available to interact with downstream effectors in actin signaling.


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