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The sequenced O45:K1:H7 Escherichia coli meningitis strain S88 harbors a large virulence plasmid. To identify possible genetic determinants of pS88 virulence, we examined the transcriptomes of 88 plasmidic ORFs corresponding to known and putative virulence genes, and 35 ORFs of unknown function.
Quantification of plasmidic transcripts was obtained by quantitative real-time reverse transcription of extracted RNA, normalized on three housekeeping genes. The transcriptome of E. coli strain S88 grown in human serum and urine ex vivo were compared to that obtained during growth in Luria Bertani broth, with and without iron depletion. We also analyzed the transcriptome of a pS88-like plasmid recovered from a neonate with urinary tract infection. The transcriptome obtained after ex vivo growth in serum and urine was very similar to those obtained in iron-depleted LB broth. Genes encoding iron acquisition systems were strongly upregulated. ShiF and ORF 123, two ORFs encoding protein with hypothetical function and physically linked to aerobactin and salmochelin loci, respectively, were also highly expressed in iron-depleted conditions and may correspond to ancillary iron acquisition genes. Four ORFs were induced ex vivo, independently of the iron concentration. Other putative virulence genes such as iss, etsC, ompTp and hlyF were not upregulated in any of the conditions studied. Transcriptome analysis of the pS88-like plasmid recovered in vivo showed a similar pattern of induction but at much higher levels.
We identify new pS88 genes potentially involved in the growth of E. coli meningitis strain S88 in human serum and urine.