Population dynamics and niche distribution of uropathogenic Escherichia coli during acute and chronic urinary tract infection

Drew J. Schwartz, Swaine L. Chen, Scott J. Hultgren*, Patrick C. Seed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) have complex dynamics, with uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), the major causative agent, capable of colonization from the urethra to the kidneys in both extracellular and intracellular niches while also producing chronic persistent infections and frequent recurrent disease. In mouse and human bladders, UPEC invades the superficial epithelium, and some bacteria enter the cytoplasm to rapidly replicate into intracellular bacterial communities (IBCs) comprised of ̃104 bacteria each. Through IBC formation, UPEC expands in numbers while subverting aspects of the innate immune response. Within 12 h of murine bladder infection, half of the bacteria are intracellular, with 3 to 700 IBCs formed. Using mixed infections with green fluorescent protein (GFP) and wild-type (WT) UPEC, we discovered that each IBC is clonally derived from a single bacterium. Genetically tagged UPEC and a multiplex PCR assay were employed to investigate the distribution of UPEC throughout urinary tract niches over time. In the first 24 h postinfection (hpi), the fraction of tags dramatically decreased in the bladder and kidney, while the number of CFU increased. The percentage of tags detected at 6 hpi correlated to the number of IBCs produced, which closely matched a calculated multinomial distribution based on IBC clonality. The fraction of tags remaining thereafter depended on UTI outcome, which ranged from resolution of infection with or without quiescent intracellular reservoirs (QIRs) to the development of chronic cystitis as defined by persistent bacteriuria. Significantly more tags remained in mice that developed chronic cystitis, arguing that during the acute stages of infection, a higher number of IBCs precedes chronic cystitis than precedes QIR formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4250-4259
Number of pages10
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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