The ability to adhere to intestinal epithelial tissue and mucosal surfaces is a key criterion in selecting probiotics. Adhesion is considered to be a prerequisite for successful colonization and survival in the gastrointestinal tract to provide persistent beneficial effects to the host. Bacteria express a multitude of surface components that mediate adherence. Pili or fimbriae are surface adhesive components implicated in initiating bacterial adhesion and mediating interaction with the host. These nonflagellar proteinaceous fiber appendages were identified and explored over several decades in pathogenic bacteria, and many distinct types are known. However, the presence of pili in probiotics and/or commensalic bacteria has only recently been recognized. Thus knowledge about pili in probiotics is relatively limited, but structural and functional data have begun to emerge. Availability of these data in the future would enable us to understand the pili-mediated adhesion strategies of probiotics. This knowledge could be utilized to develop antiadhesion-based therapies against bacterial infections as well as probiotic designs for beneficial effects. This chapter will briefly summarize the current knowledge of pili in probiotics with emphasis on members of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
Part of the book: Probiotics and Prebiotics in Human Nutrition and Health