Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC) is increasingly recognized as a diarrhoeal pathogen in developing and industrialized countries. Most EAEC virulence factors thus far described are encoded on virulence plasmid pAA, yet recent completion of the EAEC genome has suggested the presence of additional factors encoded on chromosomal islands. Previous reports have recognized the presence of a type III secretion system (T3SS), designated ETT2, at the glyU locus of prototype EAEC strain 042, along with possible T3SS effectors at the selC locus. The selC locus was also noted to harbour homologues of Salmonella enterica regulator HilA and of invasin from Yersinia spp., yet previous publications suggested that these loci may be silent. Here, we show that the genes of the selC locus are present inconsistently among a collection of well-characterized EAEC strains. Notably, however, there was perfect correlation between the presence of hilA-homologue eilA and predicted Yersinia invasin homologue gene eaeX. We hypothesized that if expressed, the putative gene product EilA would contribute to EAEC virulence in part by activation of the T3SS and its effectors. An eilA mutant was constructed in EAEC strain 042, and complementation was achieved by cloning the eilA gene under control of an arabinose-dependent promoter. In this system, we observed expression of at least seven genes to be affected by expression of eilA, either directly or indirectly: selC locus genes eipB, eipC, eipD, eicA and eaeX (renamed here air), as well as glyU ETT2 genes eivF and eivA. Notably, the eilA mutant was shown to be less adherent to epithelial cells in culture and to form less abundant biofilms than the isogenic parent. These effects were recapitulated in the air mutant, suggesting that the predicted outer membrane protein product of the air gene is involved as an accessory adhesin and aggregin of EAEC, coexpressed with the T3SS. Our data suggest that the T3SS of EAEC and presumed effectors located on different chromosomal islands may be coordinately activated by EilA, which also activates the genetically linked high molecular weight bacterial surface protein Air. Contributions of this new putative virulence-related regulon in EAEC may include adherence, aggregation, and as yet uncharacterized roles for the T3SS.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology