A molecular analysis of the interactions of Escherichia coli and macrophages

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O'Neill, Ian
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University College Cork
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Escherichia coli (E.coli) is a diverse bacterial species that primarily forms a beneficial symbiotic relationship with the host in the human lower gastrointestinal track (GIT), however it can also be pathogenic in this environment. Furthermore, some strains can diverge from the GIT and occupy niches such as the urinary tract. In all these environments, E. coli interacts with the immune system and macrophages represent the front line of the innate immune system. In this study we characterise the immune response by macrophages to E. coli infection. It was shown that E. coli broadly provoke a similar cytokine response during macrophages infection and furthermore are degraded primarily by the phagocytosis pathway. Recently a new group of E. coli called Adherent Invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) has been described. AIEC are present in the guts of Crohn’s disease (CD) patients at a higher frequency than in healthy patients. AIEC can replicate in macrophages but the mechanism for this is not fully understood. The processing of AIEC by macrophages was investigated and it was shown that AIEC only replicated in permissive macrophages. Furthermore, even in a permissive macrophages AIEC are trafficked through macrophages in a similar manner to commensal E. coli. This supports the hypothesis that AIEC are highly similar to commensal E. coli and only cause pathogenicity when present in the permissive environment of the gut of CD patients. Replication in macrophages requires functioning metabolic pathways and it was identified that glycolysis is important for AIEC survival in macrophages. AIEC mutants without a fully functioning glycolysis pathway induced less IL-1β cytokine release from macrophages than wild type strain suggesting that metabolism plays a role in inflammasome activation. Furthermore, AIEC mutants that could not produce the glycolytic end product acetate induced significantly reduced IL-1β release during infection. This suggest that the acetate molecule or a phenotypic effect of its production may be a driver of IL-1β release from AIEC infected macrophages. The interaction of uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) with macrophages was also investigated. UPEC induced very high levels of cytotoxicity in human macrophages which was shown to be dependent on the production of the pore forming toxin α-hemolysin. However, UPEC did not induced high levels of cytotoxicity in murine macrophages suggesting there are species specific sensitivity to α-hemolysin that should be considered when studying UPEC pathogenicity in murine models.
Escherichia coli , Macrophages , Metabolism , Host microbe interactions
O'Neill, I. J. 2016. A molecular analysis of the interactions of Escherichia coli and macrophages. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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