Survival and expression of acid resistance genes in Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli acid adapted in pineapple juice and exposed to synthetic gastric fluid

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The aim of this research was to determine the ability of non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) serogroups to survive with exposure to synthetic gastric fluid (SGF) after adaptation to pineapple juice (PJ) at room and refrigerated temperatures compared to E. coli O157:H7 and to examine the relative transcriptional expression of acid resistance (AR) genes, rpoS, gadA and adiA.

Methods and Results:

Resistant and sensitive strains belonging to five different STEC serogroups (O26, O103, O104, O111 and O157; n = 10) were used in this study. All strains were adapted in PJ (pH 3·8) stored at 4 and 20°C for 24 h, and then the relative transcription levels of genes in all strains were quantified using a real-time quantitative-PCR assay. After adaptation in PJ, the STEC strains were exposed to SGF (pH 1·5 and 2·0) at 37°C for 2 h. Generally, the STEC adapted in PJ at 4°C displayed enhanced survival compared to acid adaptation in PJ at 20°C and nonadapted controls with exposure to SGF (P < 0·05). Moreover, resistant strains exhibited higher survival rates compared to sensitive strains (P < 0·05). Overall, adaptation at 4°C resulted in significantly (P < 0·05) enhanced gene expression levels in PJ, and transcript levels of gadA were higher than those of the rpoS and adiA genes.


The up-regulation of AR genes due to adaptation in PJ at low temperature may increase STEC survival in acidic environments such as the gastrointestinal tract. Some non-O157 STEC strains, including serotypes O103:H2 and O111:H8, showed relatively high AR levels similar to those of STEC O157:H7.

Significance and Impact of the Study:

Induction of AR genes in acidic fruit juice, and potentially in other acidic foods may increase the risk of foodborne illness by non-O157 STEC serogroups.

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