Females across their lifespan and certain male populations are susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTI). The influence of female vs. male sex on UTI is incompletely understood, in part because preclinical modeling has been performed almost exclusively in female mice. Here, we employed established and new mouse models of UTI with uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) to investigate androgen influence on UTI pathogenesis. Susceptibility to UPEC UTI in both male and female hosts was potentiated with 5α-dihydrotestosterone, while males with androgen receptor deficiency and androgenized females treated with the androgen receptor antagonist enzalutamide were protected from severe pyelonephritis. In androgenized females and in males, UPEC formed dense intratubular, biofilm-like communities, some of which were sheltered from infiltrating leukocytes by the tubular epithelium and by peritubular fibrosis. Abscesses were nucleated by small intratubular collections of UPEC first visualized at five days postinfection and briskly expanded over the subsequent 24 hours. Male mice deficient in Toll-like receptor 4, which fail to contain UPEC within abscesses, were susceptible to lethal dissemination. Thus, androgen receptor activation imparts susceptibility to severe upper-tract UTI in both female and male murine hosts. Visualization of intratubular UPEC communities illuminates early renal abscess pathogenesis and the role of abscess formation in preventing dissemination of infection. Additionally, our study suggests that androgen modulation may represent a novel therapeutic route to combat recalcitrant or recurrent UTI in a range of patient populations.
- androgen receptor