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Infect Immun. 2012 Aug;80(8):2826-34. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00283-12. Epub 2012 Jun 4.

Distinguishing the contribution of type 1 pili from that of other QseB-misregulated factors when QseC is absent during urinary tract infection.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology & Microbial Pathogenesis, Washington University in Saint Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.


Urinary tract infections (UTI), primarily caused by uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), are one of the leading bacterial infections due to their high frequency and rate of recurrence. Both type 1 pilus adhesive organelles (fim) and the QseC sensor kinase have been implicated in UPEC virulence during UTI and have been individually reported to be promising drug targets. Deletion of qseC leads to pleiotropic effects due to unregulated activation of the cognate response regulator QseB, influencing conserved metabolic processes and diminishing expression of virulence genes, including type 1 pili. Here, we discern the type 1 pilus-dependent and -independent effects that contribute to the virulence attenuation of a UPEC qseC deletion mutant in a murine model of experimental UTI. We show that although a ΔqseC mutant restored for type 1 pilus expression regains the ability to colonize the host and initiate acute infection up to 16 h postinfection, it is rapidly outcompeted during acute infection when coinoculated with a wild-type strain. As a result, this strain has a diminished capacity to establish chronic infection. A prophylactic oral dose of a FimH small-molecular-weight antagonist (ZFH-02056) further reduced the ability of the qseC mutant to establish chronic infection. Thus, loss of QseC significantly enhances the efficacy of ZFH-02056. Collectively, our work indicates that type 1 pili and QseC become critical in different infection stages, and that dual targeting of these factors has an additive effect on ablating UPEC virulence.

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