Adhesion and invasion to epithelial cells and motility of extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producingEscherichia colireveal ST131 superiority: a comparativein vitrostudy of extraintestinal pathogenicE. colilineages

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Extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) sequence type ST131 is pandemic, and it is the major contributor to antibiotic resistance in E. coli. Despite its epidemiological superiority, the physiological reasons that decipher its success remain elusive. We aimed to compare the adhesion, invasion and motility potential of ST131 versus other E. coli lineages.


In this in vitro comparative study, 14 ESBL-producing ExPEC community-onset bacteremia isolates were chosen from a reported clinical collection (Karfunkel D, Carmeli Y, Chmelnitsky I, Kotlovsky T, Navon-Venezia S. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 2013;32:513-521). Isolates were divided into two groups, ST131 (n=7) and ‘non-ST131’, sporadic sequence types (STs) (n=7). Virulence and adhesion genes were screened by PCR in all isolates. Virotyping and serotyping were performed for ST131 isolates. Adhesion and invasion to Caco-2 epithelial cells, and motility on semi-solid agar were quantified and compared between the two groups. Fluorescence microscopy using anti-LPS E. coli antibodies was used for visualization and confirmation of adhesion and invasion.


ST131 isolates belonged to the O25b:H4-B2 subclone. Two ST131 virotypes were found, A (two blaCTX-M-15 H30-Rx) and C (two blaCTX-M-15 H30-Rx and three blaCTX-M-14 H30 isolates). The average number of adhesion and virulence genes carried by ExPEC ST131 isolates and non-ST131 isolates was 5.3 and 3.7, respectively (P<0.05). Group analysis showed that ST131 surpassed non-ST131 lineages in all three physiological properties: adherence (17.1 vs 13.1%, P<0.001), invasion (0.4 vs 0.17%, P<0.01), and swarming motility on all media tested (P<0.05).


This study demonstrates ST131 superiority that may explain its improved gut-colonization and dissemination capabilities within the host. These insights are an important step in our understanding of ST131 epidemiological success.

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