Evolution of the Stx2-encoding prophage in persistent bovine Escherichia coli O157:H7 strains.
ABSTRACT: Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a human pathogen that resides asymptomatically in its bovine host. The level of Shiga toxin (Stx) produced is variable in bovine-derived strains in contrast to human isolates that mostly produce high levels of Stx. To understand the genetic basis for varied Stx production, chronological collections of bovine isolates from Wisconsin dairy farms, R and X, were analyzed for multilocus prophage polymorphisms, stx(2) subtypes, and the levels of stx(2) transcript and toxin. The E. coli O157:H7 that persisted on both farms were phylogenetically distinct and yet produced little to no Stx2 due to gene deletions in Stx2c-encoding prophage (farm R) or insertional inactivation of stx(2a) by IS1203v (farm X). Loss of key regulatory and lysis genes in Stx2c-encoding prophage abolished stx(2c) transcription and induction of the prophage and stx(2a)::IS1203v in Stx2a-encoding prophage generated a truncated stx(2a) mRNA without affecting phage production. Stx2-producing strains were transiently present (farm R) and became Stx2 negative on farm X (i.e., stx(2a)::IS1203v). To our knowledge, this is the first study that details the evolution of E. coli O157:H7 and its Stx2-encoding prophage in a chronological collection of natural isolates. The data suggest the bovine and farm environments can be niches where Stx2-negative E. coli O157:H7 emerge and persist, which explains the Stx variability in bovine isolates and may be part of an evolutionary step toward becoming bovine specialists.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Shiga toxin (Stx) are cardinal virulence factors of enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7 (EHEC O157). The gene content and genomic insertion sites of Stx-associated bacteriophages differentiate clinical genotypes of EHEC O157 (CG, typical of clinical isolates) from bovine-biased genotypes (BBG, rarely identified among clinical isolates). This project was designed to identify bacteriophage-mediated differences that may affect the virulence of CG and BBG.<h4>Methods</h4>Stx-associated bacteriophage differences were identified by whole genome optical scans and characterized among >400 EHEC O157 clinical and cattle isolates by PCR.<h4>Results</h4>Optical restriction maps of BBG strains consistently differed from those of CG strains only in the chromosomal insertion sites of Stx2-associated bacteriophages. Multiplex PCRs (stx1, stx2a, and stx2c as well as Stx-associated bacteriophage-chromosomal insertion site junctions) revealed four CG and three BBG that accounted for >90% of isolates. All BBG contained stx2c and Stx2c-associated bacteriophage-sbcB junctions. All CG contained stx2a and Stx2a-associated bacteriophage junctions in wrbA or argW.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Presence or absence of stx2a (or another product encoded by the Stx2a-associated bacteriophage) is a parsimonious explanation for differential virulence of BBG and CG, as reflected in the distributions of these genotypes in humans and in the cattle reservoir.
Project description:The production of Shiga toxin (Stx) (verocytotoxin) is a major virulence factor of Escherichia coli O157:H7 strains (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli [STEC] O157). Two types of Shiga toxins, designated Stx1 and Stx2, are produced in STEC O157. Variants of the Stx2 type (Stx2, Stx2c) are associated with high virulences of these strains for humans. A bacteriophage designated 2851 from a human STEC O157 encoding the Stx2c variant was described previously. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the phage 2851 genome revealed 75 predicted coding sequences and indicated a mosaic structure typical for lambdoid phages. Analyses of free phages and K-12 phage 2851 lysogens revealed that upon excision from the bacterial chromosome, the loss of a phage-encoded IS629 element leads to fusion of phage antA and antB genes, with the generation of a recombined antAB gene encoding a strong antirepressor. In wild-type E. coli O157 as well as in K-12 strains, phage 2851 was found to be integrated in the sbcB locus. Additionally, phage 2851 carries an open reading frame which encodes an OspB-like type III effector similar to that found in Shigella spp. Investigation of 39 stx(2c) E. coli O157 strains revealed that all except 1 were positive for most phage 2851-specific genes and possessed a prophage with the same border sequences integrated into the sbcB locus. Phage 2851-specific sequences were absent from most stx(2c)-negative E. coli O157 strains, and we suggest that phage 2851-like phages contributed significantly to the dissemination of the Stx2c variant toxin within this group of E. coli.
Project description:Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 is an enteric pathogen that causes life-threatening disease in humans, with cattle being major natural reservoirs. A group of STEC O157:H7 with a dramatic combination of high virulence potentials and super-shedder bovine origin have been isolated. Here, an STEC O157:H7 isolate, JEONG-1266, was analyzed by comparative genomics, stx genotyping, and phenotypic analyses. The phylogenetic typing and whole-genome comparison consistently showed that JEONG-1266 is genetically close to EC4115 (one of 2006 Spinach outbreak isolates) and SS17 (an isolate from super-shedder cattle) strains, all of which belong to lineage I/II and Clade 8. Both lineage I/II and Clade 8 are known to be mostly associated with clinical strains with high virulence and severe clinical symptoms. Further, JEONG-1266, like EC4115 and SS17, harbors stx2a/stx2c genes, and carries Stx-encoding prophages, specifically the ?stx2a-? subtype. Possession of the ?stx2a-? subtype of Stx-encoding prophages and production of Stx2a have been shown to be a key signature associated with hypervirulent STEC O157:H7 strains. In silico virulence typing elucidated JEONG-1266, EC4115, and SS17 shared a highly conserved profile of key virulence genes at the nucleotide sequence level. Consistently, phenotypic data showed that JEONG-1266 expressed a high level of Stx2 toxins and had the full capacity of adhesion in vitro. Taken together, our study suggests that JEONG-1266 may represent an emerging STEC O157:H7 group, which are hypervirulent strains that originate from super-shedders, that can be a threat to food safety and public health.
Project description:In April and May 2011, there was a serious food-poisoning outbreak in Japan caused by enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) strains O111:H8 and O157:H7 from raw beef dishes at branches of a barbecue restaurant. This outbreak involved 181 infected patients, including 34 hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) cases (19%). Among the 34 HUS patients, 21 developed acute encephalopathy (AE) and 5 died. Patient stool specimens yielded E. coli O111 and O157 strains. We also detected both EHEC O111 stx2 and stx-negative E. coli O111 strains in a stock of meat block from the restaurant. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) showed that the stx-negative E. coli O111 isolates were closely related to EHEC O111 stx2 isolates. Although the EHEC O157 strains had diverse stx gene profiles (stx1, stx2, and stx1 stx2), the PFGE and MLVA analyses indicated that these isolates originated from a single clone. Deletion of the Stx2-converting prophage from the EHEC O111 stx2 isolates was frequently observed during in vitro growth, suggesting that strain conversion from an EHEC O111 stx2 to an stx-negative strain may have occurred during infection.
Project description:Signs and symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) serogroup O157:H7 infection range from mild gastrointestinal to bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). We assessed the association between Shiga toxin gene (stx) subtype and disease severity for »3,000 patients with STEC O157:H7 in England during 2009-2019. Odds of bloody diarrhea, HUS, or both, were significantly higher for patients infected with STEC O157:H7 possessing stx2a only or stx2a combined with other stx subtypes. Odds of severe signs/symptoms were significantly higher for isolates encoding stx2a only and belonging to sublineage Ic and lineage I/II than for those encoding stx2a only and belonging to sublineage IIb, indicating that stx2a is not the only driver causing HUS. Strains of STEC O157:H7 that had stx1a were also significantly more associated with severe disease than strains with stx2c only. This finding confounds public health risk assessment algorithms based on detection of stx2 as a predictor of severe disease.
Project description:Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157 is a zoonotic pathogen for which colonization of cattle and virulence in humans is associated with multiple horizontally acquired genes, the majority present in active or cryptic prophages. Our understanding of the evolution and phylogeny of EHEC O157 continues to develop primarily based on core genome analyses; however, such short-read sequences have limited value for the analysis of prophage content and its chromosomal location. In this study, we applied Single Molecule Real Time (SMRT) sequencing, using the Pacific Biosciences long-read sequencing platform, to isolates selected from the main sub-clusters of this clonal group. Prophage regions were extracted from these sequences and from published reference strains. Genome position and prophage diversity were analysed along with genetic content. Prophages could be assigned to clusters, with smaller prophages generally exhibiting less diversity and preferential loss of structural genes. Prophages encoding Shiga toxin (Stx) 2a and Stx1a were the most diverse, and more variable compared to prophages encoding Stx2c, further supporting the hypothesis that Stx2c-prophage integration was ancestral to acquisition of other Stx types. The concept that phage type (PT) 21/28 (Stx2a+, Stx2c+) strains evolved from PT32 (Stx2c+) was supported by analysis of strains with excised Stx-encoding prophages. Insertion sequence elements were over-represented in prophage sequences compared to the rest of the genome, showing integration in key genes such as stx and an excisionase, the latter potentially acting to capture the bacteriophage into the genome. Prophage profiling should allow more accurate prediction of the pathogenic potential of isolates.
Project description:Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) causes hemorrhagic colitis and the hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). STEC strains may produce Stx1a and/or Stx2a or variants of either toxin. A 2006 spinach-associated outbreak of STEC O157:H7 resulted in higher hospitalization and HUS rates than previous STEC outbreaks. The spinach isolate, strain K3995, contains both stx2a and stx2c. We hypothesized that the enhanced virulence of K3995 reflects the combination of stx2 alleles (carried on lysogenic phages) and/or the amount of Stx2 made by that strain. We compared the virulence of K3995 to those of other O157:H7 isolates and an isogenic Stx2 mutant in rabbits and mice. We also measured the relative levels of Stx2 produced from those strains with or without induction of the stx-carrying phage. Some rabbits infected with K3995 exhibited intestinal pathology and succumbed to infection, while none of those infected with O157:H7 strain 2812 (Stx1a(+) Stx2a(+)) died or showed pathological signs. Rabbits infected with the isogenic Stx2a mutant K3995 stx2a::cat were not colonized as well as those infected with K3995 and exhibited no signs of disease. In the streptomycin-treated mouse model, more animals infected with K3995 died than did those infected with O157:H7 strain 86-24 (Stx2a(+)). Additionally, K3995 produced higher levels of total Stx2 and toxin phage DNA in cultures after phage induction than did 86-24. Our results demonstrate the greater virulence of K3995 compared to other O157:H7 strains in rabbits and mice. We conclude that this enhanced virulence is linked to higher levels of Stx2 expression as a consequence of increased phage induction.
Project description:Over the last 35?years in the UK, the burden of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 infection has, during different periods of time, been associated with five different sub-lineages (1983-1995, Ia, I/IIa and I/IIb; 1996-2014, Ic; and 2015-2018, IIb). The acquisition of a stx2a-encoding bacteriophage by these five sub-lineages appears to have coincided with their respective emergences. The Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) system was used to sequence, characterize and compare the stx-encoding prophages harboured by each sub-lineage to investigate the integration of this key virulence factor. The stx2a-encoding prophages from each of the lineages causing clinical disease in the UK were all different, including the two UK sub-lineages (Ia and I/IIa) circulating concurrently and causing severe disease in the early 1980s. Comparisons between the stx2a-encoding prophage in sub-lineages I/IIb and IIb revealed similarity to the prophage commonly found to encode stx2c, and the same site of bacteriophage integration (sbcB) as stx2c-encoding prophage. These data suggest independent acquisition of previously unobserved stx2a-encoding phage is more likely to have contributed to the emergence of STEC O157:H7 sub-lineages in the UK than intra-UK lineage to lineage phage transmission. In contrast, the stx2c-encoding prophage showed a high level of similarity across lineages and time, consistent with the model of stx2c being present in the common ancestor to extant STEC O157:H7 and maintained by vertical inheritance in the majority of the population. Studying the nature of the stx-encoding bacteriophage contributes to our understanding of the emergence of highly pathogenic strains of STEC O157:H7.
Project description:We used whole-genome sequencing to investigate the evolutionary context of an emerging highly pathogenic strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 in England and Wales. A timed phylogeny of sublineage IIb revealed that the emerging clone evolved from a STEC O157:H7 stx-negative ancestor ≈10 years ago after acquisition of a bacteriophage encoding Shiga toxin (stx) 2a, which in turn had evolved from a stx2c progenitor ≈20 years ago. Infection with the stx2a clone was a significant risk factor for bloody diarrhea (OR 4.61, 95% CI 2.24-9.48; p<0.001), compared with infection with other strains within sublineage IIb. Clinical symptoms of cases infected with sublineage IIb stx2c and stx-negative clones were comparable, despite the loss of stx2c. Our analysis highlighted the highly dynamic nature of STEC O157:H7 Stx-encoding bacteriophages and revealed the evolutionary history of a highly pathogenic clone emerging within sublineage IIb, a sublineage not previously associated with severe clinical symptoms.
Project description:Among Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 strains, those producing Stx2a cause more severe diseases. Atypical STEC O157:H7 strains showing a ?-glucuronidase-positive phenotype (GP STEC O157:H7) have rarely been isolated from humans, mostly from persons with asymptomatic or mild infections; Stx2a-producing strains have not been reported. We isolated, from a patient with bloody diarrhea, a GP STEC O157:H7 strain (PV15-279) that produces Stx2a in addition to Stx1a and Stx2c. Genomic comparison with other STEC O157 strains revealed that PV15-279 recently emerged from the stx1a/stx2c-positive GP STEC O157:H7 clone circulating in Japan. Major virulence genes are shared between typical (?-glucuronidase-negative) and GP STEC O157:H7 strains, and the Stx2-producing ability of PV15-279 is comparable to that of typical STEC O157:H7 strains; therefore, PV15-279 presents a virulence potential similar to that of typical STEC O157:H7. This study reveals the importance of GP O157:H7 as a source of highly pathogenic STEC clones.