Exposure to norepinephrine enhances Brachyspira pilosicoli growth, attraction to mucin and attachment to Caco-2 cells

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-547
Journal / PublicationMicrobiology
Issue number2
Online published1 Feb 2011
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


Brachyspira pilosicoli is an anaerobic intestinal spirochaete that colonizes the large intestine of a variety of species of birds and mammals, including human beings. Colonization may result in a mild colitis and diarrhoea in a condition known as ‘intestinal spirochaetosis’. The catecholamine norepinephrine (NE), which is known to influence the behaviour of many bacterial species, may be present in the colon. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether exposure of B. pilosicoli to NE would influence its in vitro behaviour in assays that may reflect in vivo colonization potential. B. pilosicoli strain 95/1000 was used in all the assays. Addition of NE at a concentration of 0.05 mM to B. pilosicoli growing in anaerobic broth significantly increased spirochaete numbers after 4 days incubation. The effect of higher concentrations of NE was not significant. Exposure to 0.05 mM NE, but not to higher concentrations, also resulted in significantly more spirochaete cells entering capillary tubes containing 4 % porcine gastric mucin than occurred with untreated cultures. When NE was added to chemotaxis buffer in capillary tubes, significantly more spirochaetes were attracted to the buffer containing NE at 0.1, 0.5 and 1.0 mM than to buffer containing 0.05 mM NE, or when no NE was added. Exposure of B. pilosicoli cultures to 0.05 mM NE prior to incubation with Caco-2 monolayers resulted in more attachment to the monolayer than occurred with non-exposed cultures. These results show that at higher concentrations, NE acts as a chemoattractant for B. pilosicoli, and at 0.05 mM it increases the spirochaete's growth rate, attraction to mucin and rate of attachment to cultured enterocytes. These activities are likely to enhance the ability of B. pilosicoli to colonize, and may be induced by conditions that increase NE concentrations in the intestinal tract, such as the stresses associated with crowding.

Research Area(s)

  • NE, norephinephrine