Adherence to host cells by a bacterial pathogen is a critical step for establishment of infection. It will contribute greatly to the understanding of bacterial pathogenesis by studying the biological force between a single pair of pathogen and host cell. In our experiment, we use a calibrated optical tweezers system to detach a single Klebsiella pneumoniae, the pathogen, from collagen, the host. By gradually increasing the laser power of the optical tweezers until the Klebsiella pneumoniae is detached from the collagen, we obtain the magnitude of the adhesive force between them. This happens when the adhesive force is barely equal to the trapping force provided by the optical tweezers at that specific laser power.
This study is important because Klebsiella pneumoniae is an opportunistic pathogen which causes suppurative lesions, urinary and respiratory tract infections. It has been proved that type 3 fimbrial adhesin (mrkD) is strongly associated with the adherence of Klebsiella pneumoniae. Besides, four polymorphic mrkD alleles: namely, mrkDv1, v2, v3, and v4, are typed by using RFLP.
In order to investigate the relationship between the structure and the function for each of these variants, DNA fragments encoding the major fimbrial proteins mrkA, mrkB, mrkC are expressed together with any of the four mrkD adhesins in E. coli JM109. Our study shows that the E. coli strain carrying the mrkDv3 fimbriae has the strongest binding activity. This suggests that mrkDv3 is a key factor that enhances the adherence of Klebsiella Pneumoniae to human body.