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Mol Microbiol. 2011 Apr;80(1):266-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2011.07570.x. Epub 2011 Feb 24.

Secretion, but not overall synthesis, of catecholate siderophores contributes to virulence of extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli.

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INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, Laval, Québec, Canada.


Extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) use siderophores to sequester iron during infection. Enterobactin and salmochelins are catecholate siderophores produced by some ExPEC strains and other pathogenic enterobacteria. Siderophore export and synthesis mutants of avian ExPEC strain χ7122 were tested in a chicken infection model. In single-strain infections, siderophore-negative (ΔentDΔiuc), ΔentS and ΔentSΔiroC export mutants were attenuated in tissues and blood, whereas the ΔiroC export mutant was only attenuated in blood. Interestingly, the ΔentD mutant, producing only aerobactin, retained full virulence, and loss of entD in the ΔentSΔiroC mutant restored virulence. LC-MS/MS quantification of siderophores in export mutants demonstrated that loss of entS impaired enterobactin and mono-glucosylated enterobactin secretion, whereas loss of iroC impaired di- and tri-glucosylated enterobactin secretion. Loss of entS and/or iroC resulted in intracellular accumulation and increased secretion of siderophore monomers. Catecholate siderophore export mutants also demonstrated decreased fitness in a co-challenge infection model. By contrast, catecholate siderophore synthesis mutants (ΔentD and ΔiroB) competed as well as the wild-type strain. Results establish that EntS and IroC mediate specific export of catecholate siderophores and the role of these exporters for ExPEC virulence is contingent on enterobactin synthesis, which is not required when other siderophores like aerobactin are functional.

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