Clinical observations suggest that immune mechanisms affect etiology and course of recurrent cystitis. A primate infection model was used to show that primary bladder infection with a uropathogenic P-fimbriated strain (binding to globoside present in the bladder wall) protects against rechallenge with homologous as well as heterologous Escherichia coli strains for up to 5-6 mo. In contrast, mutant derivatives producing P-fimbriae either lacking the tip adhesin protein or carrying an adhesin for which no bladder receptor was present, were unable to induce protection, even though they generated bladder infections of similar duration as the wild type. Therefore, the protective effect mediated by the adhesin seemed to depend upon the presence of its cognate receptor. Since the wild strain also mediated protection against mutants that lacked the adhesin, our data suggest that the globoside-binding PapG adhesin acts as an adjuvant during infection to enhance a specific response against other bacterial antigens. In fact, the globoside-binding strain DS17, but not the mutant DS17-1, unable to bind to membrane-bound globoside, elicited a secretory IgA response to LPS in urine. These in vivo findings suggest that bacterial adhesin-ligand interactions may have signaling functions of importance for the immune response.