Escherichia coli F-18 phase locked “on” for expression of type 1 fimbriae is a poor colonizer of the streptomycin-treated mouse large intestine

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Escherichia coli F-18, a human fecal isolate, makes type 1 fimbriae in vitro and in the streptomycin-treated mouse large intestine in vivo, and is an excellent colonizer of the cecal mucus layer in the streptomycin-treated mouse large intestine. E. coli F-18(pPKL91) harbors an extra fimB gene on a parB stabilized pPBR322 plasmid and is therefore phase-locked “on” such that all cells express type 1 fimbriae. E. coli F-18(pPR633) contains essentially the same plasmid minus the fim B gene and in L-broth about 30% of the cells express type 1 fimbriae. When fed alone to streptomycin-treated mice, E. coli F-18(pPKL91) colonized the large intestine at about 107 cfu/g of feces. However, when simultaneously fed with E. coli F-18(pPR633) at either high (1010 cfu), or low doses (104 cfu), E. coli F-18(pPKL91) was a poor colonizer dropping to a level of between 102 and 103 cfu/g of feces. When given enough time to establish the state of colonization (10 days), E. coli F-18(pPKL91) persisted in feces in high numbers despite subsequent challenge by E. coli F-18(pPR633). Moreover, although both E. coli F-18(pPR633) and E. coli F-18(pPKL91) grew equally well in cecal mucus in vitro, E. coli F-18(pPR633) traveled through a layer of cecal mucus in vitro much faster than E. coli F-18(pPKL91). Together, the data suggest that type 1 fimbriated cells are at a disadvantage in initiating the colonization state because they have difficulty entering the mucus layer of the intestine as rapidly as non-fimbriated cells. The data also point to the possible biological significance of type 1 fimbrial phase-variation in the mouse large intestine. © 1993 Academic Press. All rights reserved.

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Microbial Pathogenesis