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Res Microbiol. 2008 Nov-Dec;159(9-10):709-17. doi: 10.1016/j.resmic.2008.08.005. Epub 2008 Sep 12.

Differential expression of the outer membrane protein W (OmpW) stress response in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 corresponds to the viable but non-culturable state.

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Division of Biomedical Food Research, National Institute of Health Sciences, Kamiyoga 1-18-1, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-8501, Japan.


During an outbreak of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157, we showed previously that food isolates were resistant to oxidative stress, while patient isolates were sensitive to it. Because food isolates increased stress-sensitivity after mouse passage, this change most likely occurred during passage through patients. Here we demonstrate that the phenotypic change occurring during mouse passage correlates with the stress response of outer membrane protein W (OmpW) in EHEC O157 strains. Upon induction of oxidative stress, OmpW was highly expressed only in the stress-sensitive MP37 strain, obtained by mouse passage of food strain F2, but not in the F2 strain. Western blotting confirmed that expression of OmpW was induced in the viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state. Deletion of ompW in the MP37 strain increased recovery from dormancy, while overexpression of OmpW in the F2 strain decreased recovery when exposed to oxidative stress, suggesting that high levels of OmpW sensitize the bacteria to stress. DNA alignment revealed that the class I integron (int1I) fragments flanking the ompW gene are oriented in opposite directions between stress-resistant and -sensitive strains. All stress-sensitive strains induced ompW under stress. We propose that the different stress response of OmpW was introduced by genetic alteration during in vivo passage.

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