The Escherichia coli argW-dsdCXA genetic island is highly variable, and E. coli K1 strains commonly possess two copies of dsdCXA

J Clin Microbiol. 2006 Nov;44(11):4038-48. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01172-06.


The genome sequences of Escherichia coli pathotypes reveal extensive genetic variability in the argW-dsdCXA island. Interestingly, the archetype E. coli K1 neonatal meningitis strain, strain RS218, has two copies of the dsdCXA genes for d-serine utilization at the argW and leuX islands. Because the human brain contains d-serine, an epidemiological study emphasizing K1 isolates surveyed the dsdCXA copy number and function. Forty of 41 (97.5%) independent E. coli K1 isolates could utilize d-serine. Southern blot hybridization revealed physical variability within the argW-dsdC region, even among 22 E. coli O18:K1:H7 isolates. In addition, 30 of 41 K1 strains, including 21 of 22 O18:K1:H7 isolates, had two dsdCXA loci. Mutational analysis indicated that each of the dsdA genes is functional in a rifampin-resistant mutant of RS218, mutant E44. The high percentage of K1 strains that can use d-serine is in striking contrast to our previous observation that only 4 of 74 (5%) isolates in the diarrheagenic E. coli (DEC) collection have this activity. The genome sequence of diarrheagenic E. coli isolates indicates that the csrRAKB genes for sucrose utilization are often substituted for dsdC and a portion of dsdX present at the argW-dsdCXA island of extraintestinal isolates. Among DEC isolates there is a reciprocal pattern of sucrose fermentation versus d-serine utilization. The ability to use d-serine is a trait strongly selected for among E. coli K1 strains, which have the ability to infect a wide range of extraintestinal sites. Conversely, diarrheagenic E. coli pathotypes appear to have substituted sucrose for d-serine as a potential nutrient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Southern
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics*
  • Fermentation
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Serine / metabolism
  • Sucrose / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • DsdC protein, E coli
  • DsdX protein, E coli
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Serine
  • Sucrose