Article

Prophage Induction Is Enhanced and Required for Renal Disease and Lethality in an EHEC Mouse Model

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.
PLoS Pathogens (Impact Factor: 8.06). 03/2013; 9(3):e1003236. DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003236
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Author Summary
Infection with Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), and more recently with the Enteroaggregative E. coli strain O104:H4, is a significant health risk, causing bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, and even death. The virulence factor in these bacteria responsible for the severe outcomes is Shiga toxin (Stx). Genes encoding Stx are in the genome of bacterial viruses (prophages) on the pathogenic E. coli chromosomes. The prophage remains quiescent until damage to the bacterial chromosome occurs causing prophage gene expression (called induction), which leads to production of bacteriophages that are released into the environment. Because stx expression is controlled by the phage regulatory system, prophage induction leads additionally to production and release of Stx. This study provides conclusive evidence that in a mouse model of EHEC infection, induction of the prophage carrying the stx genes is specifically required for EHEC to cause disease and that the intestinal environment adds to the induction and therefore to the production of Stx. Similar events likely regulate Stx production and release by the Stx encoding phage in the O104:H4 strain. Controlling prophage induction offers a means to control EHEC infection.

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