Most bacterial infections are initiated by the adherence of microorganisms to host tissues. This process involves the interaction of specific bacterial surface structures, called adhesins, with host components. In this review, we discuss a group of microbial adhesins known as Microbial Surface Components Recognizing Adhesive Matrix Molecules (MSCRAMMs) which recognize and bind FN. The interaction of bacteria with FN is believed to contribute significantly to the virulence of a number of microorganisms, including staphylococci and streptococci. Several FN-binding MSCRAMMs of staphylococci and streptococci exhibit a similar structural organization and mechanism of ligand recognition. The ligand-binding domain consists of tandem repeats of a approximately 45 amino acid long unit which bind to the 29-kDa N-terminal region of FN. The binding mechanism is unusual in that the repeat units are unstructured and appear to undergo a conformational change upon ligand binding. Apart from supporting bacterial adherence, FN is also involved in bacterial entry into non-phagocytic mammalian cells. A sandwich model has been proposed in which FN forms a molecular bridge between MSCRAMMs on the bacterial surface and integrins on the host cell. However, the precise mechanism of bacterial invasion and the roles of FN and integrins in this process have yet to be fully elucidated.
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