Urinary tract infection drives genome instability in uropathogenic Escherichia coli and necessitates translesion synthesis DNA polymerase IV for virulence.
Uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) produces ~80% of community-acquired UTI, the second most common infection in humans. During UTI, UPEC has a complex life cycle, replicating and persisting in intracellular and extracellular niches. Host and environmental stresses may affect the integrity of the UPEC genome and threaten its viability. We determined how the host inflammatory response during UTI drives UPEC genome instability and evaluated the role of multiple factors of genome replication and repair for their roles in the maintenance of genome integrity and thus virulence during UTI. The urinary tract environment enhanced the mutation frequency of UPEC ~100-fold relative to in vitro levels. Abrogation of inflammation through a host TLR4-signaling defect significantly reduced the mutation frequency, demonstrating in the importance of the host response as a driver of UPEC genome instability. Inflammation induces the bacterial SOS response, leading to the hypothesis that the UPEC SOS-inducible translesion synthesis (TLS) DNA polymerases would be key factors in UPEC genome instability during UTI. However, while the TLS DNA polymerases enhanced in vitro, they did not increase in vivo mutagenesis. Although it is not a source of enhanced mutagenesis in vivo, the TLS DNA polymerase IV was critical for the survival of UPEC during UTI during an active inflammatory assault. Overall, this study provides the first evidence of a TLS DNA polymerase being critical for UPEC survival during urinary tract infection and points to independent mechanisms for genome instability and the maintenance of genome replication of UPEC under host inflammatory stress.
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