Role of Deoxyribose Catabolism in Colonization of the Murine Intestine by Pathogenic Escherichia coli Strains

Martinez-Jéhanne V, du Merle L, Bernier-Fébreau C, Usein C, Gassama-Sow A, Wane AA, Gouali M, Damian M, Aïdara-Kane A, Germani Y, Fontanet A, Coddeville B, Guérardel Y, Le Bouguénec C. 2009.

We previously suggested that the ability to metabolize deoxyribose, a phenotype encoded by the deoK operon, is associated with the pathogenic potential of Escherichia coli strains. Carbohydrate metabolism is thought to provide the nutritional support required for E. coli to colonize the intestine. We therefore investigated the role of deoxyribose catabolism in the colonization of the gut, which acts as a reservoir, by pathogenic E. coli strains. Molecular and biochemical characterization of 1,221 E. coli clones from various collections showed this biochemical trait to be common in the E. coli species (33.6%). However, multivariate analysis evidenced a higher prevalence of sugar-metabolizing E. coli clones in the stools of patients from countries in which intestinal diseases are endemic. Diarrhea processes frequently involve the destruction of intestinal epithelia, so it is plausible that such clones may be positively selected for in intestines containing abundant DNA, and consequently deoxyribose. Statistical analysis also indicated that symptomatic clinical disorders and the presence of virulence factors specific to extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli were significantly associated with an increased risk of biological samples and clones testing positive for deoxyribose. Using the streptomycin-treated-mouse model of intestinal colonization, we demonstrated the involvement of the deoK operon in gut colonization by two pathogenic isolates (one enteroaggregative and one uropathogenic strain). These results, indicating that deoxyribose availability promotes pathogenic E. coli growth during host colonization, suggest that the acquisition of this trait may be an evolutionary step enabling these pathogens to colonize and persist in the mammalian intestine.

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