Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Phenotypic and genotypic characteristics associated with biofilm formation in clinical isolates of atypical enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (aEPEC) strains

Heloisa H Nascimento1, Lucas EP Silva1, Renata T Souza1, Neusa P Silva2 and Isabel CA Scaletsky1*

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Microbiologia, Imunologia e Parasitologia, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Rua Botucatu, 862, 3 andar, 04023-062 São Paulo, Brazil

2 Disciplina de Reumatologia, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

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BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:184  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-184

Published: 10 July 2014



Biofilm formation by enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) have been recently described in the prototype typical EPEC E2348/69 strain and in an atypical EPEC O55:H7 strain. In this study, we sought to evaluate biofilm formation in a collection of 126 atypical EPEC strains isolated from 92 diarrheic and 34 nondiarrheic children, belonging to different serotypes. The association of biofilm formation and adhesin-related genes were also investigated.


Biofilm formation occurred in 37 (29%) strains of different serotypes, when the assays were performed at 26°C and 37°C for 24 h. Among these, four strains (A79, A87, A88, and A111) formed a stronger biofilm than did the others. The frequency of biofilm producers was higher among isolates from patients compared with isolates from controls (34.8% vs 14.7%; P = 0.029). An association was found between biofilm formation and expression of type 1 fimbriae and curli (P < 0.05). Unlike the previously described aEPEC O55:H7, one aEPEC O119:HND strain (A111) formed a strong biofilm and pellicle at the air-liquid interface, but did not express curli. Transposon mutagenesis was used to identify biofilm-deficient mutants. Transposon insertion sequences of six mutants revealed similarity with type 1 fimbriae (fimC, fimD, and fimH), diguanylate cyclase, ATP synthase F1, beta subunit (atpD), and the uncharacterized YjiC protein. All these mutants were deficient in biofilm formation ability.


This study showed that the ability to adhere to abiotic surfaces and form biofilm is present in an array of aEPEC strains. Moreover, it seems that the ability to form biofilms is associated with the presence of type 1 fimbriae and diguanylate cyclase. Characterization of additional biofilm formation mutants may reveal other mechanisms involved in biofilm formation and bring new insights into aEPEC adhesion and pathogenesis.

Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli; Biofilm formation; Type 1 pili