Acquisition of Avian Pathogenic Escherichia coli Plasmids by a Commensal E. coli Isolate Enhances Its Abilities To Kill Chicken Embryos, Grow in Human Urine, and Colonize the Murine Kidney

Skyberg, Jerod
Johnson, Timothy
Johnson, James
Clabots, Connie
Logue, Catherine
Nolan, Lisa
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Nolan, Lisa
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We have found an avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) plasmid, pAPEC-O2-ColV, which contains many of the genes associated with APEC virulence and also shows similarity in content to a plasmid and pathogenicity island of human uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC). To test the possible role of this plasmid in virulence, it was transferred by conjugation along with a large R plasmid, pAPEC-O2-R, into a commensal avian E. coli strain. The transconjugant was compared to recipient strain NC, UPEC strain HE300, and donor strain APEC O2 using various assays, including lethality for chicken embryos, growth in human urine, and ability to cause urinary tract infection in mice. The transconjugant killed significantly more chicken embryos than did the recipient. In human urine, APEC O2 grew at a rate equivalent to that of UPEC strain HE300, and the transconjugant showed significantly increased growth compared to the recipient. The transconjugant also significantly outcompeted the recipient in colonization of the murine kidney. These findings suggest that APEC plasmids, such as pAPEC-O2-ColV, contribute to the pathogenesis of avian colibacillosis. Moreover, since avian E. coli and their plasmids may be transmitted to humans, evaluation of APEC plasmids as possible reservoirs of urovirulence genes for human UPEC may be warranted.


This article is from Infection and Immunity 74, no. 11 (November 2006): 6287–6292, doi:10.1128/IAI.00363-06.