Attraction of Brachyspira pilosicoli  to mucin

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-197
Journal / PublicationMicrobiology
Issue number1
Online published1 Jan 2010
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


The anaerobic intestinal spirochaete Brachyspira pilosicoli colonizes the large intestine of various species, including humans. In the colon this spirochaete can penetrate the overlying mucus layer, attach by one cell end to the underlying enterocytes, and initiate localized colitis and diarrhoea. The aim of this study was to investigate whether, as part of the colonization process, B. pilosicoli is attracted to mucin. Fifteen B. pilosicoli strains isolated from humans, pigs, chickens and dogs, and a control strain of Brachyspira hyodysenteriae, were analysed for their ability to enter solutions of hog gastric mucin in an in vitro capillary tube assay. No significant attraction was detected with 1% mucin, but some strains started to enter a 2% solution, and attraction then increased with increasing concentrations to peak at around 6-8% mucin. A similar increase was seen with B. hyodysenteriae, although this activity peaked at 6% mucin and then declined, suggesting that the two species have different affinities for mucin. These mucin concentrations were much higher than those used in previous experimental studies with Brachyspira species. The viscosities of the 6-8% mucin solutions were around 7-12 mPa s, which were similar to the measured viscosities of the mucus layer overlying the epithelium in the caecum and colon of experimental pigs. The strains varied in their motility, as assessed by their ability to enter tubes containing chemotaxis buffer, but there was no significant relationship between this motility and the extent of their ability to enter the mucin solutions. Different strains also had different propensities to enter the mucin solutions, but there were no consistent differences according to the host species of origin. B. pilosicoli strain 95/1000 was attracted towards a solution of Dserine, suggesting that chemotaxis was involved in the attraction to mucin; however, 95/1000 was also attracted to viscous solutions of polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), in a manner mirroring the response to mucin, and hence suggesting the involvement of viscotaxis in the attraction to mucin. B. hyodysenteriae B204 showed a similar viscotaxis to PVP. Further studies are required to determine whether the in vitro interaction of a given strain with mucin is a useful indicator of its in vivo colonization ability, and hence could be used as a potential marker for virulence.

Citation Format(s)

Attraction of Brachyspira pilosicoli  to mucin. / Naresh, Ram; Hampson, David J.
In: Microbiology, Vol. 156, No. 1, 01.2010, p. 191-197.

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review