Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur predominantly in females but also affect substantial male patient populations; indeed,morbidity in complicatedUTI is higher in males. Because of technical obstacles, preclinical modeling of UTI in male mice has been limited. We devised a minimally invasive surgical bladder inoculation technique that yields reproducible upper and lower UTI in both male and female mice, enabling studies of sex differences in these infections. Acute uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) cystitis in C57BL/6 and C3H/HeN males recapitulated the intracellular bacterial community pathway previously shown in females. However, surgically infected females of these strains exhibited more robust bladder cytokine responses and more efficient UPEC control than males. Compared with females, C3H/HeN males displayed a striking predilection for chronic cystitis, manifesting as persistent bacteriuria, high-titer bladder bacterial burdens, and chronic inflammation. Furthermore, males developed more severe pyelonephritis and 100% penetrant renal abscess (a complication that is rare in female mice). These phenotypes were sharply abrogated after castration but restored with exogenous testosterone, suggesting that male susceptibility to UTI is strongly influenced by androgen exposure. These data substantiate the long-standing presumption that anatomic differences in urogenital anatomy confer protection from UTI in males; however, as clinically observed, male sex associated with more severe UTI once these traditional anatomic barriers were bypassed. This study introduces a highly tractable preclinical model for interrogating sex differences in UTI susceptibility and pathogenesis, and illuminates an interplay between host sex and UTI that is more complex than previously appreciated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1625-1634
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2016


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