Sequence microdiversity at the ribosomal RNA operons of Escherichia coli pyelonephritogenic strains

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2001 Jul;7(7):345-51. doi: 10.1046/j.1198-743x.2001.00260.x.


Objective: To determine whether Escherichia coli strains isolated from patients with uncomplicated acute pyelonephritis can be distinguished from those isolated from patients with complicated acute pyelonephritis on the basis of the genetic background.

Methods: In total, 103 E. coli strains isolated from patients with acute pyelonephritis (59 uncomplicated pyelonephritis (UAP) and 44 complicated pyelonephritis (CAP)) were characterized by RFLP of the intergenic spacer region 16S-23S rRNA, the presence of three alternative sequences found in the polymorphic V6 loop of the 16S rRNA gene, the presence of the pap gene, and antibiotic susceptibility.

Results: At similarity levels of 70%, four RFLP groups (alpha1, alpha2, beta1 and beta2) were discerned. Strains from UAP were statistically significant for alpha RFLP, with a strong association with the presence of the pap gene, V6-I sequence and antibiotic multisensitivity. Strains from CAP randomly belonged to the alpha or beta RFLP groups, with a very low presence of the pap gene, and random presence of V6 sequences, and were multiresistant to antibiotics. When the CAP strains were distributed according to underlying pathology, non-obstructive cases had RFLP and V6 polymorphisms similar to those of UAP cases, while obstructive cases were clearly distinct.

Conclusions: UAP and non-obstructive CAP E. coli strains are sensitive to antimicrobials, show a high level of the pap gene and belong to the selective, homogeneous and highly protected molecular alpha2 group, where no recombinations, deletions or insertions are present. On the contrary, obstructive and vesicorenal reflux E. coli strains show significant antimicrobial resistance, high intercistronic heterogenicity (wide presence of block nucleotidic substitutions, deletions or insertions) and significantly lower virulence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Pyelonephritis / microbiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 23S / genetics
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Virulence
  • rRNA Operon / genetics*


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 23S