Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Feb 3;101(5):1333-8. Epub 2004 Jan 22.

Differentiation and developmental pathways of uropathogenic Escherichia coli in urinary tract pathogenesis.

Author information

  • 1Department of Molecular Microbiology, Box 8230, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) are capable of forming complex intracellular bacterial communities (IBC) within the superficial umbrella cells of the bladders of C3H and BALB/c mice. By using time-lapse fluorescence videomicroscopy to observe infected mouse bladder explants, we discovered that IBCs formed by uropathogenic E. coli progressed through four distinct developmental stages that differed with respect to growth rate, bacterial length, colony organization, motility, and its eventual dispersal. In the first phase, bacteria in the IBC were nonmotile, rod shaped, and grew rapidly in loosely organized colonies free in the cytoplasm of the bladder superficial umbrella cells. In the second phase, the loose collection of bacteria in the IBC matured into a slower growing, highly organized biofilm-like community consisting of coccoid bacteria that ultimately filled most of the cytoplasm. In the third phase, bacteria in the biofilm-like state in the IBC switched to a motile rod-shaped phenotype allowing detachment from the community and eventual fluxing out of the host cell. During the fourth phase, the bacteria filamented. Filamentation appeared to be in response to a Toll-like receptor 4-mediated innate defense mechanism. Bacteria that fluxed out of the superficial umbrella cells were able to reenter the IBC developmental cascade but with slower kinetics and ultimately a quiescent reservoir was established. Intracellular growth and filamentation provided an advantage to the bacteria in evading infiltrating polymorphonuclear leukocytes. This work has developed a technique to observe live infected organs and revealed a complex differentiation pathway that facilitates bacterial persistence in the urinary tract.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk