Intestinal barrier dysfunction by enteropathogenic Escherichia coli is mediated by two effector molecules and a bacterial surface protein

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Summary

The human intestinal pathogen, enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC), causes diarrhoeal disease by a mechanism that is dependent on the injection of effector proteins into the host cell. One effector, EspF, is reported to be required for EPEC to disrupt tight junction integrity of intestinal cells and increase the paracellular movement of molecules, which is likely to  contribute  to  diarrhoea.  Here,  we  show  that  not one but three EPEC-encoded factors play important roles in this process. Thus, the Map (Mitochondria-associated protein) effector is shown to: (i) be as essential as EspF for disrupting intestinal barrier function, (ii) be able to function independently of EspF, (iii) alter tight junction structure and (iv) mediate these effects in the absence of mitochondrial targeting. Additionally, the outer membrane protein Intimin is shown to be crucial for EspF and Map to disrupt the intestinal barrier function. This function of Intimin is completely independent of its interaction with its known receptor Tir, revealing a physiologically relevant requirement for Intimin interaction with alternative receptor(s). This work demonstrates that EPEC uses multiple multifunctional proteins to elicit specific responses in intestinal cells and that EPEC can control the activity of its injected effector molecules from its extracellular location.

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