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Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 2009 Feb;95(2):149-58. doi: 10.1007/s10482-008-9298-z. Epub 2009 Jan 8.

An Escherichia coli aer mutant exhibits a reduced ability to colonize the streptomycin-treated mouse large intestine.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary and Microbiological Sciences, University of North Dakota, P.O. Box 6050-Dept.7690, Fargo, ND 58108, USA.


The oxygen sensor Aer of Escherichia coli affects the expression level of genes that are involved in sugar acid degradation. Phenotypes of Aer mediated gene regulation, namely growth on sugar acids was tested 'in vitro' with Phenotype MicroArrays and colonization of the mouse large intestine was tested 'in vivo'. The aer mutant did not grow on the sugar acids D: -gluconate, D: -glucuronate, D: -galacturonate, as well as the sugar alcohol D: -mannitol. Since sugar acids are the predominant carbon source for E. coli in the intestinal mucosa, the ability of the aer mutant to colonize the streptomycin-treated mouse large intestine was tested. The mutant exhibited a decreased ability to colonize the intestine when compared to wild-type cells. This effect was more pronounced under competitive conditions. The colonization phenotype of the aer mutant was complemented with either of two plasmids. One of them expressed the Aer protein, whereas the other one expressed the sugar acid degradation enzymes that are encoded by edd and eda. The data support the interpretation that decreased expression of edd and eda along with the decreased ability to grow on sugar acids may contribute to the reduced capacity of the aer mutant to colonize the mouse intestine. While Aer seems to be important during the initiation phase of colonization, FlhD/FlhC appears to be of disadvantage during maintenance phase. FlhD/FlhC is the master regulator of all flagellar genes and required for Aer expression. Mutants in flhD exhibited an initial competitive disadvantage during the first 3 days of colonization, but recovered lateron.

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