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Due to its frequent association with urinary tract infections (UTIs), Escherichia coli is the best characterized constituent of the urinary microbiota (urobiome). However, uropathogenic E. coli is just one member of the urobiome. In addition to bacterial constituents, the urobiome of both healthy and symptomatic individuals is home to a diverse population of bacterial viruses (bacteriophages). A prior investigation found that most bacterial species in the urobiome are lysogens, harboring one or more phages integrated into their genome (prophages). Many of these prophages are temperate phages, capable of entering the lytic cycle and thus lysing their bacterial host. This transition from the lysogenic to lytic life cycle can impact the bacterial diversity of the urobiome. While many phages that infect E. coli (coliphages) have been studied for decades in the laboratory setting, the coliphages within the urobiome have yet to be cataloged. Here, we investigated the diversity of urinary coliphages by first identifying prophages in all publicly available urinary E. coli genomes. We detected 3,038 intact prophage sequences, representative of 1,542 unique phages. These phages include both novel species as well as species also found within the gut microbiota. Ten temperate phages were isolated from urinary E. coli strains included in our analysis, and we assessed their ability to infect and lyse urinary E. coli strains. We also included in these host range assays other urinary coliphages and laboratory coliphages. The temperate phages and other urinary coliphages were successful in lysing urinary E. coli strains. We also observed that coliphages from non-urinary sources were most efficient in killing urinary E. coli strains. The two phages, T2 and N4, were capable of lysing 83.5% (n = 86) of strains isolated from females with UTI symptoms. In conclusion, our study finds a diverse community of coliphages in the urobiome, many of which are predicted to be temperate phages, ten of which were confirmed here. Their ability to infect and lyse urinary E. coli strains suggests that urinary coliphages may play a role in modulating the E. coli strain diversity of the urobiome.
Crum, Elias; Merchant, Zubia; Ene, Adriana; Miller-Ensminger, Taylor; Johnson, Genevieve; Wolfe, Alan J.; and Putonti, Catherine. Coliphages of the human urinary microbiota. PLoS ONE, 18, 2023-04-04: 1-16, 2023. Retrieved from Loyola eCommons, Biology: Faculty Publications and Other Works, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0283930
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