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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2017 Oct 16;364(19). doi: 10.1093/femsle/fnx198.

Roles for RpoS in survival of Escherichia coli during protozoan predation and in reduced moisture conditions highlight its importance in soil environments.

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Microbiology, School of Natural Sciences, College of Science, National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway H91 CF50, Ireland.
Département de Génie Biologique, IUT Dijon, University of Burgundy, F- 21078 Dijon, France.
Soil and Environmental Microbiology, Teagasc, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford Y35 Y521, Ireland.


The soil is a complex ecosystem where interactions between biotic and abiotic factors determine the survival and fate of microbial inhabitants of the system. Having previously shown that Escherichia coli requires the general stress response regulator, RpoS, to survive long term in soil, it was important to determine what specific conditions in this environment necessitate a functional RpoS. This study investigated the susceptibility of soil-persistent E. coli to predation by the single-celled eukaryotes Acanthamoeba polyphaga and Tetrahymena pyriformis, and the role RpoS plays in resisting this predation. Strain-specific differences were observed in the predation of E. coli strains, with soil-persistent strain COB583 being the most resistant to predation by both protozoans. RpoS and curli, proteinaceous fibres used for attachment to biotic and abiotic surfaces, increased the ability of E. coli to resist predation by A. polyphaga and T. pyriformis. Furthermore, soil moisture content impacted the survival of E. coli BW25113 but wild-type COB583 had similar survival irrespective of soil moisture content. Overall, this study confirmed that RpoS contributes to the resistance of E. coli to protozoan predation and that RpoS is crucial for the increased fitness of soil-persistent E. coli against predation and reduced moisture in soil.


adaptation; general stress response regulator (RpoS); osmotic stress; protozoa, predation; soil survival

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