SslE, the Secreted and surface-associated lipoprotein from Escherichia coli, has recently been associated to the M60-like extracellular zinc-metalloprotease sub-family which is implicated in glycan recognition and processing. SslE can be divided into two main variants and we recently proposed it as a potential vaccine candidate. By applying a number of in vitro bioassays and comparing wild type, knockout mutant and complemented strains, we have now demonstrated that SslE specifically contributes to degradation of mucin substrates, typically present in the intestine and bladder. Mutation of the zinc metallopeptidase motif of SslE dramatically impaired E. coli mucinase activity, confirming the specificity of the phenotype observed. Moreover, antibodies raised against variant I SslE, cloned from strain IHE3034 (SslEIHE3034), are able to inhibit translocation of E. coli strains expressing different variants through a mucin-based matrix, suggesting that SslE induces cross-reactive functional antibodies that affect the metallopeptidase activity. To test this hypothesis, we used wellestablished animal models and demonstrated that immunization with SslEIHE3034 significantly reduced gut, kidney and spleen colonization by strains producing variant II SslE and belonging to different pathotypes. Taken together, these data strongly support the importance of SslE in E. coli colonization of mucosal surfaces and reinforce the use of this antigen as a component of a broadly protective vaccine against pathogenic E. coli species.