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The Influence of pH on the Specific Adhesion of P Piliated Escherichia coli

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038548
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Microbiology
  • Bacterial Pathogens
  • Escherichia Coli
  • Gram Negative
  • Bacteriology
  • Bacterial Biochemistry
  • Bacterial Physiology
  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Chemistry
  • Applied Chemistry
  • Chemical Properties
  • Ph Factor
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Medicine
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Bacterial Diseases
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Physics


Adhesion to host tissues is an initiating step in a majority of bacterial infections. In the case of Gram-negative bacteria this adhesion is often mediated by a specific interaction between an adhesin, positioned at the distal end of bacterial pili, and its receptor on the surface of the host tissue. Furthermore, the rod of the pilus, and particularly its biomechanical properties, is believed to be crucial for the ability of bacteria to withstand external forces caused by, for example, (in the case of urinary tract infections) urinary rinsing flows by redistributing the force to several pili. In this work, the adhesion properties of P-piliated E. coli and their dependence of pH have been investigated in a broad pH range by both the surface plasmon resonance technique and force measuring optical tweezers. We demonstrate that P piliated bacteria have an adhesion ability throughout the entire physiologically relevant pH range (pH 4.5 – 8). We also show that pH has a higher impact on the binding rate than on the binding stability or the biomechanical properties of pili; the binding rate was found to have a maximum around pH 5 while the binding stability was found to have a broader distribution over pH and be significant over the entire physiologically relevant pH range. Force measurements on a single organelle level show that the biomechanical properties of P pili are not significantly affected by pH.

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