Free Access
Vet. Res.
Volume 34, Number 2, March-April 2003
Page(s) 153 - 163
How to cite this article Vet. Res. (2003) 153-163
Vet. Res. 34 (2003) 153-163
DOI: 10.1051/vetres:2002062

Sequence analysis demonstrates the conservation of fimH and variability of fimA throughout Avian Pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC)

Fréderic Vandemaelea, Dominique Vandekerchoveb, Monita Vereeckenc, Jef Derijckec, Maryvonne Dho-Moulind and Bruno Maria Goddeerisa, e

a  Laboratory of Physiology and Immunology of Domestic Animals, Catholic University Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 30, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
b  Small Stock Diseases, Veterinary and Agrochemical Research Centre (VAR), Groeselenberg 99, 1180 Brussels, Belgium
c  Animal Health Care, East Flanders, Deinse Horsweg 1, 9031 Drongen, Belgium
d  Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Station de Pathologie Aviaire et de Parasitologie, Centre de Recherches de Tours, 37380, Nouzilly, France
e  Department Virology, Parasitology and Immunology, Faculty Veterinary Medicine, University Ghent, Salisburylaan 133, 9820, Merelbeke, Belgium

(Received 27 May 2002; accepted 30 September 2002)

In this study we sequenced and analysed the fimH and fimA genes of 24 avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) isolates, in order to investigate their possible conserved nature. Additional parameters (serotype, presence of aerobactin receptor, expression of F1 pili and virulence for chickens) were investigated to look for correlations with the obtained sequences. The sequence analysis demonstrated that FimH is highly conserved among all investigated APEC strains ( > 99% homology), whereas the major subunit FimA is less conserved, presenting 6 variable regions distributed along the protein. A hydrophilicity analysis suggested several variable domains of FimA to be potential epitopes. We were able to classify the investigated strains into three main groups, on the basis of the amino-acid sequences of the variable regions. This grouping was consistent throughout all variable regions and was independent of serotype, leading to an improved classification of the F1 pili. No correlation was found between the fimH and fimA sequences and the following parameters: avian species, organ of isolation, serotype, presence of aerobactin receptor and virulence for chickens. This study elucidated the molecular structure and the degree of conservation of FimH and FimA among various avian pathogenic E. coli strains.

Key words: Escherichia coli / avian / APEC / FimH / FimA

Correspondence and reprints: Fréderic Vandemaele Tel.: (32) 16 32 14 33; fax: (32) 16 32 19 94;

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2003