Uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) is the primary cause of urinary tract infections (UTI) affecting approximately 150 million people worldwide. Here, we revealed the importance of transcriptional regulator hypoxia-inducible factor-1 α subunit (HIF-1α) in innate defense against UPEC-mediated UTI. The effects of AKB-4924, a HIF-1α stabilizing agent, were studied using human uroepithelial cells (5637) and a murine UTI model. UPEC adherence and invasion were significantly reduced in 5637 cells when HIF-1α protein was allowed to accumulate. Uroepithelial cells treated with AKB-4924 also experienced reduced cell death and exfoliation upon UPEC challenge. In vivo, fewer UPEC were recovered from the urine, bladders and kidneys of mice treated transurethrally with AKB-4924, whereas increased bacteria were recovered from bladders of mice with a HIF-1α deletion. Bladders and kidneys of AKB-4924 treated mice developed less inflammation as evidenced by decreased pro-inflammatory cytokine release and neutrophil activity. AKB-4924 impairs infection in uroepithelial cells and bladders, and could be correlated with enhanced production of nitric oxide and antimicrobial peptides cathelicidin and β-defensin-2. We conclude that HIF-1α transcriptional regulation plays a key role in defense of the urinary tract against UPEC infection, and that pharmacological HIF-1α boosting could be explored further as an adjunctive therapy strategy for serious or recurrent UTI.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004818
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


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