Structural biology and cellular studies of the Escherichia coli virulence factor SslE

Dr James Garnett (primary)
Centre for Host Microbiome Interactions
King's College London
Dr Vidya Darbari (secondary)
Department of Biochemistry
Queen Mary University of London


Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative bacterium that colonizes the human intestine. The protein SslE is secreted by both commensal and pathogenic E. coli strains, where it can degrade major mucins in the intestine to facilitate penetration of the host mucosa. SslE is also essential for the maturation of biofilms and is fundamental for intestinal colonization in a rabbit model of enteropathogenic E. coli infection. Using cryo-electron microscopy, microbiology and intestinal epithelial infection models, this project aims to understanding the fundamental role of SslE in commensal and virulent E. coli strains.


Corsini, P., Wang, S., Rehman, S., Fenn, K., Sagar, A., Mastroianni, G., Sirovica, S., Dorgan, B., Cleaver, L., Lynham, S., Sewell, L., Carpenter, G., Curtis, M.A., Bernado, P., Darbari, D. & Garnett, J.A. (2021) Molecular and cellular insight into Escherichia coli SslE and its role during biofilm maturation. BioRxiv

Valeri, M., Paccani, S.R., Kasendra. M., Nesta, N., Serino, L., Pizza, M. & Soriani, M. (2015) Pathogenic E. coli exploits SslE mucinase activity to translocate through the mucosal barrier and get access to host cells. PLoS ONE 10, e0117486.

Luom Q., Kumar, P., Vickers, T.J., Sheikh, A., Lewis, W.G., Rasko, D.A., Sistrunk, J. & Fleckenstein, J.M. (2014) Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli secretes a highly conserved
mucin-degrading metalloprotease to effectively engage intestinal epithelial cells. Infection and Immunity 82, 509-21.

Nesta, N., Valeri, M., Spagnuolo, A., Rosini, R., Mora, M., Donato, P., Alteri, C.J., Vecchio, M.D., Buccato, S., Pezzicoli, A., Bertoldi, I., Buzzigoli, L., Tuscano, G., Falduto, M., Rippa, V., Ashhab, Y., Bensi, G., Fontana, M.R., Seib, K.L., Mobley, H.L.T., Pizza, M., Soriani, M. & Serino. (2014) SslE Elicits Functional Antibodies That Impair In Vitro Mucinase Activity and In Vivo Colonization by Both Intestinal and Extraintestinal Escherichia coli Strains. PLoS Pathogens 10, e1004124.

Bankole, E., Read, E., Curtis, M.A., Neves, J.F. & Garnett, J.A. (2021) The relationship between mucins and ulcerative colitis: a systemic review. J. Clin. Med. 11, e3933.

Rehman, S., Grigoryeva, L.S., Richardson, K.H., Corsini, P., White, R.C., Shaw, R., Portlock, T.J., Dorgan, B., Zanjani, Z.S., Fornili, A., Cianciotto, N.P. & Garnett, J.A. (2020) Structure and functional analysis of the Legionella pneumophila chitinase ChiA reveals a novel mechanism of metal-dependent mucin degradation. PLoS Pathogens 16, e1008342.

Glyde, R., Ye, F., Darbari, V.C., Zhang, N., Buck, M. & Zhang, X. (2017) Structures of RNA polymerase closed and intermediate complexes reveal mechanisms of DNA opening and transcription initiation. Molecular Cell 67, 106-116.

Molecules, cells and industrial biotechnology
Area of Biology
Cell BiologyMicrobiologyStructural Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BiochemistryBiophysicsMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologyMolecular BiologySimulation / Modelling