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Kenneth Todar currently teaches Microbiology 100 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  His main teaching interest include general microbiology, bacterial diversity, microbial ecology and pathogenic bacteriology.

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Colonization and Invasion by Bacterial Pathogens (page 1)

(This chapter has 4 pages)

© Kenneth Todar, PhD

Introduction

Microbial pathogenicity has been defined as the structural and biochemical mechanisms whereby microorganisms cause disease. Pathogenicity in bacteria may be associated with unique structural components of the cells (e.g. capsules, fimbriae, LPS or other cell wall components) or active secretion of substances that either damage host tissues or protect the bacteria against host defenses. Hence, there are two broad qualities of pathogenic bacteria that underlie the means by which they cause disease: invasiveness and toxigenesis.

Toxigenesis is the ability to produce toxins. Toxic substances produced by bacteria, both soluble and cell-associated, may be transported by blood and lymph and cause cytotoxic effects at tissue sites remote from the original point of invasion or growth.

Invasiveness is the ability of a pathogen to invade tissues. Invasiveness encompasses (1) mechanisms for colonization (adherence and initial multiplication), (2) production of extracellular substances ("invasins"), that promote the immediate invasion of tissues and (3) ability to bypass or overcome host defense mechanisms which facilitate the actual invasive process. This chapter deals with the first two aspects of of invasiveness: colonization and invasion.

COLONIZATION

The first stage of microbial infection is colonization: the establishment of the pathogen at the appropriate portal of entry. Pathogens usually colonize host tissues that are in contact with the external environment. Sites of entry in human hosts include the urogenital tract, the digestive tract, the respiratory tract and the conjunctiva. Organisms that infect these regions have usually developed tissue adherence mechanisms and some ability to overcome or withstand the constant pressure of the host defenses at the surface.

Bacterial Adherence to Mucosal Surfaces. In its simplest form, bacterial adherence or attachment to a eucaryotic cell or tissue surface requires the participation of two factors: a receptor and a ligand. The receptors so far defined are usually specific carbohydrate or peptide residues on the eucaryotic cell surface. The bacterial ligand, called an adhesin, is typically a macromolecular component of the bacterial cell surface which interacts with the host cell receptor. Adhesins and receptors usually interact in a complementary and specific fashion with specificity comparable to enzyme-substrate relationships and antigen-antibody reactions. Table 1 is a list of terms that are used in medical microbiology to refer to microbial adherence to surfaces or tissues.

TABLE 1. TERMS USED TO DESCRIBE ADHERENCE FACTORS IN MICROBIOLOGY
ADHERENCE FACTOR DESCRIPTION
Adhesin A surface structure or macromolecule that binds a bacterium to a specific surface
Receptor A complementary macromolecular binding site on a (eucaryotic) surface that binds specific adhesins or ligands
Lectin Any protein that binds to a carbohydrate
Ligand A surface molecule that exhibits specific binding to a receptor molecule on another surface
Mucous The mucopolysaccharide layer of glucosaminoglycans covering animal cell mucosal surfaces
Fimbriae Filamentous proteins on the surface of bacterial cells that may behave as adhesins for specific adherence
Common pili Same as fimbriae
Sex pilus A specialized pilus that binds mating procaryotes together for the purpose of DNA transfer
Type 1 fimbriae Fimbriae in Enterobacteriaceae which bind specifically to mannose terminated glycoproteins on eucaryotic cell surfaces
Type 4 pili
Pili in certain Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. In Pseudomonas, thought to play a role in adherence and biofilm formation
Biofilm
exopolysaccharide or slime produced by bacteria that attaches imbedded cells to a surface

S-layer
Proteins that form the outermost cell envelope component of a broad spectrum of bacteria, enabling them to adhere to host cell membranes and environmental surfaces in order to colonize.
Glycocalyx A layer of exopolysaccharide fibers on the surface of bacterial cells which may be involved in adherence to a surface. Sometimes a general term for a bacterial capsules.
Capsule A detectable layer of polysaccharide (rarely polypeptide) on the surface of a bacterial cell which may mediate specific or nonspecific attachment
Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) A distinct cell wall component of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria with the potential structural diversity to mediate specific adherence. Probably functions as an adhesin
Teichoic acids and lipoteichoic acids (LTA) Cell wall components of Gram-positive bacteria that may be involved in nonspecific or specific adherence


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