Role of aggregate-forming pilus (AFP) in adherence and colonization of both intestinal and urinary tracts

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Hybrid-pathogenic Escherichia coli represent an important group of strains associated with intestinal and extraintestinal infections. Recently, we described strain UPEC-46, a uropathogenic/enteroaggregative E. coli (UPEC/EAEC) strain presenting the aggregative adherence (AA) pattern on bladder and colorectal epithelial cells mediated by aggregate-forming pili (AFP). However, the role of AFP and other uninvestigated putative fimbriae operons in UPEC-46 pathogenesis remains unclear. Thus, this study evaluated the involvement of AFP and other adhesins in uropathogenicity and intestinal colonization using different in vitro and in vivo models. The strain UPEC-46 was able to adhere and invade intestinal and urinary cell lines. A library of transposon mutants also identified the involvement of type I fimbriae (TIF) in the adherence to HeLa cells, in addition to colorectal and bladder cell lines. The streptomycin-treated mouse in vivo model also showed an increased number of bacterial counts in the colon in the presence of AFP and TIF. In the mouse model of ascending urinary tract infection (UTI), AFP was more associated with kidney colonization, while TIF appears to mediate bladder colonization. Results observed in in vivo experiments were also confirmed by electron microscopy (EM) analyses. In summary, the in vitro and in vivo analyses show a synergistic role of AFP and TIF in the adherence and colonization of intestinal and urinary epithelia. Therefore, we propose that hybrid E. coli strains carrying AFP and TIF could potentially cause intestinal and urinary tract infections in the same patient.
Schüroff PA, Abe CM, Silva JW, CPC, FB.A, RT.H, et al. Role of aggregate-forming pilus (AFP) in adherence and colonization of both intestinal and urinary tracts. Virulence. 2022 Aug; 13(1):1423–1433. doi:10.1080/21505594.2022.2112818.
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