Type 1 fimbrial adhesin FimH Elicits an immune response that enhances cell adhesion of Escherichia coli

Veronika Tchesnokova, Pavel Aprikian, Dagmara Kisiela, Sarah Gowey, Natalia Korotkova, Wendy Thomas, Evgeni Sokurenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Escherichia coli causes about 90% of urinary tract infections (UTI), and more than 95% of all UTI-causing E. coli express type 1 fimbriae. The fimbrial tip-positioned adhesive protein FimH utilizes a shear forceenhanced, so-called catch-bond mechanism of interaction with its receptor, mannose, where the lectin domain of FimH shifts from a low- to a high-affinity conformation upon separation from the anchoring pilin domain. Here, we show that immunization with the lectin domain induces antibodies that exclusively or predominantly recognize only the high-affinity conformation. In the lectin domain, we identified four high-affinity-specific epitopes, all positioned away from the mannose-binding pocket, which are recognized by 20 separate clones of monoclonal antibody. None of the monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies against the lectin domain inhibited the adhesive function. On the contrary, the antibodies enhanced FimH-mediated binding to mannosylated ligands and increased by severalfold bacterial adhesion to urothelial cells. Furthermore, by natural conversion from the high- to the low-affinity state, FimH adhesin was able to shed the antibodies bound to it. When whole fimbriae were used, the antifimbrial immune serum that contained a significant amount of antibodies against the lectin domain of FimH was also able to enhance FimH-mediated binding. Thus, bacterial adhesins (or other surface antigens) with the ability to switch between alternative conformations have the potential to induce a conformation-specific immune response that has a function-enhancing rather than -inhibiting impact on the protein. These observations have implications for the development of adhesin-specific vaccines and may serve as a paradigm for antibody-mediated enhancement of pathogen binding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3895-3904
Number of pages10
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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