GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Molecular Genetics and Microbiology


Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

First Thesis Advisor

John M. Leong


Escherichia coli, Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing, Escherichia coli Proteins, Actins, Signal Transduction


Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is one of many bacterial and viral pathogens that can exploit the eukaryotic actin cytoskeleton for its own purposes. EPEC injects its own receptor, Tir, into the host cell plasma membrane where, upon binding the bacterial adhesin, intimin, can trigger actin assembly beneath bound bacteria resulting in characteristic actin "pedestals". The formation of these lesions is thought to be critical for bacterial colonization; and can also provide insight into actin dynamics of mammalian cells. EPEC Tir stimulates multiple signaling pathways converging on a central actin nucleation promoting factor, N-WASP. The best-characterized pathway of actin pedestal formation also involves the eukaroytic adaptor protein, Nck, but at least two Nck-independent signaling cascades have also been identified. Multiple aspects of Tir-mediated signaling cascades remain unclear. For example, although Nck can directly bind and activate N-WASP, current models of Tir-mediated, Nck-dependent actin signaling postulate an indirect interaction between Nck and N-WASP mediated by one or more unidentified host factors. Additionally, the relationship of this pathway to the Nck-independent pathways is unknown. To better understand Tir-mediated actin assembly, a detailed and quantitative analysis of the domain requirements of Nck and N-WASP for pedestal formation was conducted. The results indicate that, contrary to previously favored models, Nck is unlikely to require additional host factors to bind N-WASP during pedestal formation, but apparently directly stimulates this nucleation promoting factor. In addition, the results show that the Nck-dependent and -independent pathways target distinct regulatory domains of N-WASP.



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