Virulence plasmid harbored by uropathogenic Escherichia coli functions in acute stages of pathogenesis

Corinne K. Cusumano, Chia S. Hung, Swaine L. Chen, Scott J. Hultgren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations

Abstract

Urinary tract infections (UTIs), the majority of which are caused by uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), afflict nearly 60% of women within their lifetimes. Studies in mice and humans have revealed that UPEC strains undergo a complex pathogenesis cycle that involves both the formation of intracellular bacterial communities (IBC) and the colonization of extracellular niches. Despite the commonality of the UPEC pathogenesis cycle, no specific urovirulence genetic profile has been determined; this is likely due to the fluid nature of the UPEC genome as the result of horizontal gene transfer and numerous genes of unknown function. UTI89 has a large extrachromosomal element termed pUTI89 with many characteristics of UPEC pathogenicity islands and that likely arose due to horizontal gene transfer. The pUTI89 plasmid has characteristics of both F plasmids and other known virulence plasmids. We sought to determine whether pUTI89 is important for virulence. Both in vitro and in vivo assays were used to examine the function of pUTI89 using plasmid-cured UTI89. No differences were observed between UTI89 and plasmid-cured UTI89 based on growth, type 1 pilus expression, or biofilm formation. However, in a mouse model of UTI, a significant decrease in bacterial invasion, CFU and IBC formation of the pUTI89-cured strain was observed at early time points postinfection compared to the wild type. Through directed deletions of specific operons on pUTI89, the cjr operon was partially implicated in this observed defect. Our findings implicate pUTI89 in the early aspects of infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1457-1467
Number of pages11
JournalInfection and immunity
Volume78
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2010

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