A Siderophore-Encoding Plasmid Encodes High-Level Virulence in Escherichia coli

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
Journal / PublicationMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number3
Online published23 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022



A plasmid that harbored the virulence factors highly like those of the virulence plasmid commonly found in clinical hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae strains was detected in a foodborne Escherichia coli strain EC1108 and designated p1108-IncFIB. This virulent-like plasmid was found to be common in E. coli from various sources. To understand the contribution of this plasmid to the virulence of E. coli, plasmid p1108-IncFIB in strain EC1108 was first cured to generate strain EC1108-PC. The virulence plasmid p15WZ-82_Vir in Klebsiella pneumoniae strain 15WZ-82 was then transmitted to EC1108-PC to produce the transconjugant, EC1108-PC-TC to assess the contribution of this virulence plasmid to the virulence level of E. coli. During the process of conjugation, p15WZ-82_Vir was found to be evolved into p15WZ-82_int, which underwent homologous recombination with a plasmid encoding a carbapenemase gene, blaNDM-1, p1108-NDM, in EC1108-PC. Comparison between the level of virulence in the EC1108, EC1108-PC-TC, and EC1108-PC through serum and macrophage resistance assay, as well as animal experiments, confirmed that plasmid p1108-IncFIB encoded a high level of virulence in E. coli, yet the fusion plasmid derived from p15WZ-82_Vir did not encode virulence but instead imposed a high fitness cost in the E. coli strain EC1108-PC-TC. These findings indicate that E. coli strains carrying the virulence plasmid p1108-IncFIB in multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains may also impose serious public health threats like that of hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae strains harboring the p15WZ-82_Vir plasmid.

Research Area(s)

  • conjugation, virulence plasmid, avian pathogenic E. coli, hypervirulent K. pneumoniae, transmission

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