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Escherichia coli F-18, an excellent colonizer of the streptomycin-treated mouse large intestine, produces type 1 pili. E. coli F-18 FimA-, type 1 pilus negative, and E. coli F-18 FimH-, type 1 pilus positive but adhesin negative, were constructed by bacteriophage P1 transduction of defective fimA and fimH genes from the E. coli K-12 strains ORN151 and ORN133, respectively, into E. coli F-18. Adhesion of E. coli F-18 to an immobilized mannose-bovine serum albumin glycoconjugate was about sixfold greater than that of either E. coli F-18 FimA- or E. coli F-18 FimH-, and adhesion of E. coli F-18 to immobilized cecal epithelial cell brush border membranes was between two- and threefold greater than that of E. coli F-18 FimA- or E. coli F-18 FimH-. When either E. coli F-18 FimA- or E. coli FimH- was fed to streptomycin-treated mice together with E. coli F-18, the pilus-negative and adhesin-negative strains colonized as well as their type 1-piliated parent. Essentially the same result was observed when the type 1-piliated E. coli K-12 strain ORN152 was fed to streptomycin-treated mice together with a nearly isogenic K-12 FimA- strain, ORN151. Furthermore, when streptomycin-treated mice were fed E. coli F-18 FimA- or E. coli F-18 FimH- together with E. coli F-18 Col-, which also makes type 1 pili but is a poor colonizer relative to E. coli F-18 because it grows poorly in mucus in the presence of E. coli F-18, the F-18 FimA- and F-18 FimH- strains colonized well (10(6) to 10(7) CFU/g of feces), whereas the number of E. coli F-18 Col- in feces decreased rapidly to 10(2) CFU/g of feces. These data show that in streptomycin-treated mice, the inability to produce functional type 1 pili has no effect on the ability of E. coli F-18 and E. coli K-12 to colonize the large intestine.