Dynamic gene network analysis of Caco-2 cell response to Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli-associated Hemolytic–Uremic Syndrome

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O113:H21 strains are associated with human diarrhea and some strains may cause hemolytic–uremic syndrome (HUS). In Brazil, these strains are commonly found in cattle but, so far, were not isolated from HUS patients. Here, a system biology approach was used to investigate the differential transcriptomic and phenotypic responses of enterocyte-like Caco-2 cells to two STEC O113:H21 strains with similar virulence factor profiles (i.e., expressing stx2, ehxA, epeA, espA, iha, saa, sab, and subA): EH41 (Caco-2/EH41), isolated from a HUS patient in Australia, and Ec472/01 (Caco-2/Ec472), isolated from bovine feces in Brazil, during a 3 h period of bacteria–enterocyte interaction. Gene co-expression network analysis for Caco-2/EH41 revealed a quite abrupt pattern of topological variation along 3 h of enterocyte–bacteria interaction when compared with networks obtained for Caco-2/Ec472. Transcriptional module characterization revealed that EH41 induces inflammatory and apoptotic responses in Caco-2 cells just after the first hour of enterocyte–bacteria interaction, whereas the response to Ec472/01 is associated with cytoskeleton organization at the first hour, followed by the expression of immune response modulators. Scanning electron microscopy showed more intense microvilli destruction in Caco-2 cells exposed to EH41 when compared to those exposed to Ec472/01. Altogether, these results show that EH41 expresses virulence genes, inducing a distinctive host cell response, and is likely associated with severe pathogenicity.
Keywords
shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli;  hemolytic–uremic syndrome;  caco-2 cells;  enterocyte-bacteria interaction;  systems biology;  gene co-expression network;  weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA)

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Bando SY., Iamashita P, Silva FN., Costa LF., Abe CM, Bertonha FB., et al. Dynamic gene network analysis of Caco-2 cell response to Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli-associated Hemolytic–Uremic Syndrome. Microorganisms. 2019 Jul;7(195). doi:10.3390/microorganisms7070195.
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