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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Aug;70(8):4792-9.

Acid resistance systems required for survival of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in the bovine gastrointestinal tract and in apple cider are different.

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Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, 264 Greene Hall, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA.


Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a highly acid-resistant food-borne pathogen that survives in the bovine and human gastrointestinal tracts and in acidic foods such as apple cider. This property is thought to contribute to the low infectious dose of the organism. Three acid resistance (AR) systems are expressed in stationary-phase cells. AR system 1 is sigma(S) dependent, while AR systems 2 and 3 are glutamate and arginine dependent, respectively. In this study, we sought to determine which AR systems are important for survival in acidic foods and which are required for survival in the bovine intestinal tract. Wild-type and mutant E. coli O157:H7 strains deficient in AR system 1, 2, or 3 were challenged with apple cider and inoculated into calves. Wild-type cells, adapted at pH 5.5 in the absence of glucose (AR system 1 induced), survived well in apple cider. Conversely, the mutant deficient in AR system 1, shown previously to survive poorly in calves, was susceptible to apple cider (pH 3.5), and this sensitivity was shown to be caused by low pH. Interestingly, the AR system 2-deficient mutant survived in apple cider at high levels, but its shedding from calves was significantly decreased compared to that of wild-type cells. AR system 3-deficient cells survived well in both apple cider and calves. Taken together, these results indicate that E. coli O157:H7 utilizes different acid resistance systems based on the type of acidic environment encountered.

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