Identification of a high-molecular-mass Lactobacillus epithelium adhesin (LEA) of Lactobacillus crispatus ST1 that binds to stratified squamous epithelium

Lactobacilli belong to the normal gastrointestinal and genital tract microbiota of human and animal hosts. Adhesion is important for bacterial colonization; however, only a few Lactobacillus adhesins have been identified so far. We studied extracted surface proteins from an adhesive Lactobacillus crispatus strain, ST1, which efficiently colonizes the chicken alimentary tract, for their binding to tissue sections of the chicken crop, and identified a novel high-molecular-mass repetitive surface protein that shows specific binding to stratified squamous epithelium. The adhesin binds to both crop epithelium and epithelial cells from human vagina, and was named Lactobacillus epithelium adhesin (LEA). Expression of LEA is strain-specific among L. crispatus strains and corresponds directly to in vitro bacterial adhesion ability. The partial sequence of the lea gene predicts that the LEA protein carries an N-terminal YSIRK signal sequence and a C-terminal LPxTG anchoring motif, as well as a highly repetitive region harbouring 82 aa long repeats with non-identical sequences that show similarity to Lactobacillus Rib/alpha-like repeats. LEA-mediated epithelial adherence may improve bacterial colonization in the chicken crop and the human vagina, which are the natural environments for L. crispatus.

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