Iron regulates contrasting toxicity of uropathogenic Eschericia coli in macrophages and epithelial cells

Deepti Dabral, Hiren Ghosh, Masato Niwa, Tasuku Hirayama, Marjon de Vos, Geert van den Bogaart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperPreprintAcademic

10 Downloads (Pure)


By far most urinary tract infections are caused by genetically diverse uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC). Knowledge of the virulence mechanisms of UPEC is critical for drug development, but most studies focus on only a single strain of UPEC. In this study, we compared the virulence mechanisms of four antibiotic-resistant and highly pathogenic UPEC isolates in human blood monocyte-derived macrophages and a bladder epithelial cell (BEC) line: ST999, ST131, ST1981 and ST95. We found that while non-pathogenic E. coli strains are efficiently killed by macrophages in bactericidal single membrane vacuoles, the UPEC strains survive within double-membrane vacuoles. On side-by-side comparison, we found that whereas ST999 only carries Fe3+ importers, ST95 carries both Fe2+ and Fe3+ importers and the toxins haemolysin and colibactin. Moreover, we found that ST999 grows in the Fe3+ rich vacuoles of BECs and macrophages with concomitant increased expression of haem receptor chuA and the hydrogen peroxide sensor oxyR. In contrast, ST95 produces toxins in iron-depleted conditions similar to that of the urinary tract. Whereas ST95 also persist in the iron rich vacuoles of BECs, it produces colibactin in response to low Fe3+ contributing to macrophage death. Thus, iron regulates the contrasting toxicities of UPEC strains in macrophages and bladder epithelial cells due to low and high labile iron concentrations, respectively.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusSubmitted - 29-May-2022

Publication series

PublisherCold Spring Harbor Labs Journals

Cite this