Differentiation and developmental pathways of uropathogenic Escherichia coli in urinary tract pathogenesis

Sheryl S. Justice, Chia Hung, Julie A. Theriot, Daniel A. Fletcher, Gregory G. Anderson, Matthew J. Footer, Scott J. Hultgren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

477 Scopus citations


Uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) are capable of forming complex intracellular bacterial communities (IBC) within the superficial umbrella cells of the bladders of C3H and BALB/c mice. By using time-lapse fluorescence videomicroscopy to observe infected mouse bladder explants, we discovered that IBCs formed by uropathogenic E. coli progressed through four distinct developmental stages that differed with respect to growth rate, bacterial length, colony organization, motility, and its eventual dispersal. In the first phase, bacteria in the IBC were nonmotile, rod shaped, and grew rapidly in loosely organized colonies free in the cytoplasm of the bladder superficial umbrella cells. In the second phase, the loose collection of bacteria in the IBC matured into a slower growing, highly organized biofilm-like community consisting of coccoid bacteria that ultimately filled most of the cytoplasm. In the third phase, bacteria in the biofilm-like state in the IBC switched to a motile rod-shaped phenotype allowing detachment from the community and eventual fluxing out of the host cell. During the fourth phase, the bacteria filamented. Filamentation appeared to be in response to a Toll-like receptor 4-mediated innate defense mechanism. Bacteria that fluxed out of the superficial umbrella cells were able to reenter the IBC developmental cascade but with slower kinetics and ultimately a quiescent reservoir was established. Intracellular growth and filamentation provided an advantage to the bacteria in evading infiltrating polymorphonuclear leukocytes. This work has developed a technique to observe live infected organs and revealed a complex differentiation pathway that facililates bacterial persistence in the urinary tract.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1338
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 3 2004


Dive into the research topics of 'Differentiation and developmental pathways of uropathogenic Escherichia coli in urinary tract pathogenesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this