The Pai-associated leuX specific tRNA5(Leu) affects type 1 fimbriation in pathogenic Escherichia coli by control of FimB recombinase expression

Angelika Ritter, David Gally, Peter B Olsen, Ulrich Dobrindt, Arne Friedrich, Per Klemm, Jörg Hacker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The uropathogenic Escherichia coli strain 536 (06:K15:H31) carries two large chromosomal pathogenicity islands (Pais). Both Pais are flanked by tRNA genes. Spontaneous deletion of Pai II results in truncation of the leuX tRNA5Leu gene. This tRNA is required for the expression of type 1 fimbriae (Fim) and other virulence factors. Transcription of fimA, encoding the major type 1 fimbrial subunit is controlled by an invertable DNA switch. The inversion is catalysed by two recombinases, FimB and FimE. FimB is able to turn the switch on, FimE only off. The fimB gene of strain 536 contains five TTG codons recognized by tRNA5Leu, fimE contains only two. It was proposed that turning on the fim switch requires efficient translation of FimB, in turn requiring tRNA5Leu. Strains in which the TTG codons in fimB were replaced with CTG codons at the wild-type locus were able to produce type 1 fimbriae in the absence of leuX. fimB transcription was influenced by the presence of leuX, but only slightly affected by the presence or absence of leuX codons in fimB. FimB translation was significantly higher from codon-replaced fimB genes than that of wild-type fimB genes in various strain backgrounds. The fim switch was shown to be switched off in leuX-derivatives of E. coli 536, but could be found in the on position when the codon-altered fimB gene was exchanged into the chromosome of these strains. From these data, it is apparent that tRNA5Leu is required for efficient translation of FimB, in turn, leading to type 1 fimbrial expression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-82
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1997


  • Bacterial Proteins/genetics
  • Chromosome Inversion
  • Codon/genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Recombinant
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Escherichia coli
  • Fimbriae Proteins
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genetic Variation
  • Integrases
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Pili, Sex/genetics
  • RNA, Messenger/analysis
  • RNA, Messenger/genetics
  • RNA, Transfer, Leu/genetics
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Virulence/genetics


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