• Absence of Curli in Soil-Persistent Escherichia coli Is Mediated by a C-di-GMP Signaling Defect and Suggests Evidence of Biofilm-Independent Niche Specialization

      Somorin, Yinka M; Vollmerhausen, Tara; Waters, Nicholas; Pritchard, Leighton; Abram, Florence; Brennan, Fiona P.; O'Byrne, Conor; Thomas Crawford Hayes Research Award; NUI Galway College of Science (Frontiers, 2018-06-22)
      Escherichia coli is commonly viewed as a gastrointestinal commensal or pathogen although an increasing body of evidence suggests that it can persist in non-host environments as well. Curli are a major component of biofilm in many enteric bacteria including E. coli and are important for adherence to different biotic and abiotic surfaces. In this study we investigated curli production in a unique collection of soil-persistent E. coli isolates and examined the role of curli formation in environmental persistence. Although most soil-persistent E. coli were curli-positive, 10% of isolates were curli-negative (17 out of 170). Curli-producing E. coli (COB583, COB585, and BW25113) displayed significantly more attachment to quartz sand than the curli-negative strains. Long-term soil survival experiments indicated that curli production was not required for long-term survival in live soil (over 110 days), as a curli-negative mutant BW25113ΔcsgB had similar survival compared to wild type BW25113. Mutations in two genes associated with c-di-GMP metabolism, dgcE and pdeR, correlated with loss of curli in eight soil-persistent strains, although this did not significantly impair their survival in soil compared to curli-positive strains. Overall, the data indicate that curli-deficient and biofilm-defective strains, that also have a defect in attachment to quartz sand, are able to reside in soil for long periods of time thus pointing to the possibility that niches may exist in the soil that can support long-term survival independently of biofilm formation.
    • Characterization of Environmentally Persistent Escherichia coli Isolates Leached from an Irish Soil

      Brennan, Fiona P.; Abram, Florence; Chinalia, Fabio A.; Richards, Karl G.; O'Flaherty, Vincent; Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology; Science Foundation Ireland (American Society for Microbiology, 12/02/2010)
      Soils are typically considered to be suboptimal environments for enteric organisms, but there is increasing evidence that Escherichia coli populations can become resident in soil under favorable conditions. Previous work reported the growth of autochthonous E. coli in a maritime temperate Luvic Stagnosol soil, and this study aimed to characterize, by molecular and physiological means, the genetic diversity and physiology of environmentally persistent E. coli isolates leached from the soil. Molecular analysis (16S rRNA sequencing, enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus PCR, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, and a multiplex PCR method) established the genetic diversity of the isolates (n = 7), while physiological methods determined the metabolic capability and environmental fitness of the isolates, relative to those of laboratory strains, under the conditions tested. Genotypic analysis indicated that the leached isolates do not form a single genetic grouping but that multiple genotypic groups are capable of surviving and proliferating in this environment. In physiological studies, environmental isolates grew well across a broad range of temperatures and media, in comparison with the growth of laboratory strains. These findings suggest that certain E. coli strains may have the ability to colonize and adapt to soil conditions. The resulting lack of fecal specificity has implications for the use of E. coli as an indicator of fecal pollution in the environment.