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J Microbiol. 2010 Jun;48(3):347-57. doi: 10.1007/s12275-010-9228-4. Epub 2010 Jun 23.

Phenotypic diversity of Escherichia coli O157:H7 strains associated with the plasmid O157.

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Department of Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho 83844, USA.


Escherichia coli O157:H7, a food-borne pathogen, causes hemorrhagic colitis and the hemolytic-uremic syndrome. A putative virulence factor of E. coli O157:H7 is a 60-MDa plasmid (pO157) found in 99% of all clinical isolates and many bovine-derived strains. The well characterized E. coli O157:H7 Sakai strain (Sakai) and its pO157-cured derivative (Sakai-Cu) were compared for phenotypic differences. Sakai-Cu had enhanced survival in synthetic gastric fluid, did not colonize cattle as well as wild-type Sakai, and had unchanged growth rates and tolerance to salt and heat. These results are consistent with our previous findings with another E. coli O157:H7 disease outbreak isolate ATCC 43894 and its pO157-cured (43894-Cu). However, despite the essentially sequence identical pO157 in these strains, Sakai-Cu had changes in antibiotic susceptibility and motility that did not occur in the 43894-Cu strain. This unexpected result was systematically analyzed using phenotypic microarrays testing 1,920 conditions with Sakai, 43894, and the plasmid-cured mutants. The influence of the pO157 differed between strains on a wide number of growth/survival conditions. Relative expression of genes related to acid resistance (gadA, gadX, and rpoS) and flagella production (fliC and flhD) were tested using quantitative real-time PCR and gadA and rpoS expression differed between Sakai-Cu and 43894-Cu. The strain-specific differences in phenotype that resulted from the loss of essentially DNA-sequence identical pO157 were likely due to the chromosomal genetic diversity between strains. The O157:H7 serotype diversity was further highlighted by phenotypic microarray comparisons of the two outbreak strains with a genotype 6 bovine E. coli O157:H7 isolate, rarely associated with human disease.

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