In Firmicutes, the nutrient-sensing regulators (p)ppGpp, the effector molecule of the stringent response, and CodY work in tandem to maintain bacterial fitness during infection. Here, we tested (p)ppGpp and codY mutant strains of Enterococcus faecalis in a catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) mouse model and used global transcriptional analysis to investigate the relationship of (p)ppGpp and CodY. The absence of (p)ppGpp or single inactivation of codY led to lower bacterial loads in catheterized bladders and diminished biofilm formation on fibrinogen-coated surfaces under in vitro and in vivo conditions. Single inactivation of the bifunctional (p)ppGpp synthetase/hydrolase rel did not affect virulence, supporting previous evidence that the association of (p)ppGpp with enterococcal virulence is not dependent on the activation of the stringent response. Inactivation of codY in the (p)ppGpp0 strain restored E. faecalis virulence in the CAUTI model as well as the ability to form biofilms in vitro. Transcriptome analysis revealed that inactivation of codY restores, for the most part, the dysregulated metabolism of (p)ppGpp0 cells. While a clear linkage between (p)ppGpp and CodY with expression of virulence factors could not be established, targeted transcriptional analysis indicates that a possible association between (p)ppGpp and c-di-AMP signaling pathways in response to the conditions found in the bladder may play a role in enterococcal CAUTI. Collectively, data from this study identify the (p)ppGpp-CodY network as an important contributor to enterococcal virulence in catheterized mouse bladder and support that basal (p)ppGpp pools and CodY promote virulence through maintenance of a balanced metabolism under adverse conditions.
- Stringent response