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  2. Abstract

Attaching and effacing (AE) bacteria are a diverse group of gastrointestinal pathogens, comprising members of four genera, that cause the intestinal epithelial microvilli to be replaced with raised clusters of filamentous actin that conform to the surface of attached bacteria. We have cloned a 35.4 kb ‘pathogenicity island’ from the prototype AE bacterium, enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, containing all previously described AE genes. Transfer of this pathogenicity island to avirulent E. coli converts the recipients into strains that secrete virulence proteins, induce host signal-transduction pathways, and cause AE lesions on cultured epithelial cells. These results demonstrate that this pathogenicity island contains all pathogen-specific genes necessary for inducing AE lesions, and that the defining feature of this class of pathogens can be acquired by an avirulent bacterium in a single genetic step.

  1. Present address: Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA