Surface sensing and adhesion of Escherichia coli controlled by the Cpx-signaling pathway

Karen Otto, Thomas J. Silhavy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

331 Scopus citations


Bacterial adhesion is an important initial step in biofilm formation, which may cause problems in medical, environmental, and industrial settings. In spite of obvious phenotypic differences between attached and planktonic cells, knowledge about the genetic basis for these differences and how adhesion-induced changes are mediated is limited. The Cpx two-component signal transduction pathway responds specifically to stress caused by disturbances in the cell envelope and activates genes encoding periplasmic protein folding and degrading factors. Here, we address the role of the Cpx-signaling pathway in sensing and responding to the physical change occurring during adhesion of Escherichia coli to surfaces. We present evidence that the expression of Cpx-regulated genes is induced during initial adhesion of E. coli to abiotic surfaces. This induction is specifically observed upon attachment of stationary-phase cells to hydrophobic surfaces. Moreover, surface-induced activity of the Cpx response requires NIPE, an outer membrane lipoprotein, which has previously been shown to induce the Cpx system when overproduced. The importance of a functional Cpx response during adhesion is further supported by the fact that a dramatically lower number of cells attach to the surface and dynamic cell-surface interactions as measured by a quartz crystal microbalance technique are altered when the CpxRA pathway is disrupted. The defects in adhesion exhibited by the cpxR and nIpE mutants were strikingly similar to those of wild-type cells in which protein synthesis was inhibited, suggesting that the Cpx pathway plays a key role in the regulation of adhesion-induced gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2287-2292
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 19 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Biofilm formation
  • Cell envelope stress
  • NIpE
  • Quartz crystal microbalance
  • Signal transduction


Dive into the research topics of 'Surface sensing and adhesion of Escherichia coli controlled by the Cpx-signaling pathway'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this