American Society for Microbiology
The microbial community of the urinary tract (urinary microbiota or urobiota) has been associated with human health. Bacteriophages (phages) and plasmids present in the urinary tract, like in other niches, may shape urinary bacterial dynamics. While urinary Escherichia coli strains associated with urinary tract infection (UTI) and their phages have been catalogued for the urobiome, bacterium-plasmid-phage interactions have yet to be explored. In this study, we characterized urinary E. coli plasmids and their ability to decrease permissivity to E. coli phage (coliphage) infection. Putative F plasmids were predicted in 47 of 67 urinary E. coli isolates, and most of these plasmids carried genes that encode toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules, antibiotic resistance, and/or virulence. Urinary E. coli plasmids, from urinary microbiota strains UMB0928 and UMB1284, were conjugated into E. coli K-12 strains. These transconjugants included genes for antibiotic resistance and virulence, and they decreased permissivity to coliphage infection by the laboratory phage P1vir and the urinary phages Greed and Lust. Plasmids in one transconjugant were maintained in E. coli K-12 for up to 10 days in the absence of antibiotic resistance selection; this included the maintenance of the antibiotic resistance phenotype and decreased permissivity to phage. Finally, we discuss how F plasmids present in urinary E. coli strains could play a role in coliphage dynamics and the maintenance of antibiotic resistance in urinary E. coli. IMPORTANCE The urinary tract contains a resident microbial community called the urinary microbiota or urobiota. Evidence exists that it is associated with human health. Bacteriophages (phages) and plasmids present in the urinary tract, like in other niches, may shape urinary bacterial dynamics. Bacterium-plasmid-phage interactions have been studied primarily in laboratory settings and are yet to be thoroughly tested in complex communities. This is especially true of the urinary tract, where the bacterial genetic determinants of phage infection are not well understood. In this study, we characterized urinary E. coli plasmids and their ability to decrease permissivity to E. coli phage (coliphage) infection. Urinary E. coli plasmids, encoding antibiotic resistance and transferred by conjugation into naive laboratory E. coli K-12 strains, decreased permissivity to coliphage infection. We propose a model by which urinary plasmids present in urinary E. coli strains could help to decrease phage infection susceptibility and maintain the antibiotic resistance of urinary E. coli. This has consequences for phage therapy, which could inadvertently select for plasmids that encode antibiotic resistance.
Montelongo Hernandez, Cesar; Putonti, Catherine; and Wolfe, Alan J.. Urinary Plasmids Reduce Permissivity to Coliphage Infection. Microbiology spectrum, 11, 4: 1-15, 2023. Retrieved from Loyola eCommons, Biology: Faculty Publications and Other Works, http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/spectrum.01309-23
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