Vaginal epithelial cells regulate membrane adhesiveness to co-ordinate bacterial adhesion
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Vaginal epithelium is colonized by different bacterial strains and species. The bacterial composition of vaginal biofilms controls the balance between health and disease. Little is known about the relative contribution of the epithelial and bacterial cell surfaces to bacterial adhesion and whether and how adhesion is regulated over cell membrane regions. Here, we show that bacterial adhesion forces with cell membrane regions not located above the nucleus are stronger than with regions above the nucleus both for vaginal pathogens and different commensal and probiotic lactobacillus strains involved in health. Importantly, adhesion force ratios over membrane regions away from and above the nucleus coincided with the ratios between numbers of adhering bacteria over both regions. Bacterial adhesion forces were dramatically decreased by depleting the epithelial cell membrane of cholesterol or sub-membrane cortical actin. Thus, epithelial cells can regulate membrane regions to which bacterial adhesion is discouraged, possibly to protect the nucleus.