Characterization of the contribution to virulence of three large plasmids of avian pathogenic Escherichia coli χ7122 (O78:K80:H9)

Melha Mellata, Keith Ameiss, Hua Mo, Roy Curtiss

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57 Scopus citations


Despite the fact that the presence of multiple large plasmids is a defining feature of extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC), such as avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC), and despite the fact that these bacteria pose a considerable threat to both human and animal health, characterization of these plasmids is still limited. In this study, after successfully curing APEC of its plasmids, we were able to investigate, for the first time, the contribution to virulence of three plasmids, pAPEC-1 (103 kb), pAPEC-2 (90 kb), and pAPEC-3 (60 kb), from APEC strain χ7122 individually as well as in all combinations in the wild-type background. Characterization of the different strains revealed unique features of APEC virulence. In vivo assays showed that curing the three plasmids resulted in severe attenuation of virulence. The presence of different plasmids and combinations of plasmids resulted in strains with different pathotypes and levels of virulence, reflecting the diversity of APEC strains associated with colibacillosis in chickens. Unexpectedly, our results associated the decrease in growth of some strains in some media with the virulence of APEC, and the mechanism was associated with some combinations of plasmids that included pAPEC-1. This study provided new insights into the roles of large plasmids in the virulence, growth, and evolution of APEC by showing for the first time that both the nature of plasmids and combinations of plasmids have an effect on these phenomena. It also provided a plausible explanation for some of the conflicting results related to the virulence of ExPEC strains. This study should help us understand the virulence of other ExPEC strains and design more efficient infection control strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1528-1541
Number of pages14
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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