Background: Adherent and invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) are commonly found in ileal lesions of Crohn's Disease (CD) patients, where they adhere to intestinal epithelial cells and invade into and survive in epithelial cells and macrophages, thereby gaining access to a typically restricted host niche. Colonization leads to strong inflammatory responses in the gut suggesting that AIEC could play a role in CD immunopathology. Despite extensive investigation, the genetic determinants accounting for the AIEC phenotype remain poorly defined. To address this, we present the complete genome sequence of an AIEC, revealing the genetic blueprint for this disease-associated E. coli pathotype.
Results: We sequenced the complete genome of E. coli NRG857c (O83:H1), a clinical isolate of AIEC from the ileum of a Crohn's Disease patient. Our sequence data confirmed a phylogenetic linkage between AIEC and extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli causing urinary tract infections and neonatal meningitis. The comparison of the NRG857c AIEC genome with other pathogenic and commensal E. coli allowed for the identification of unique genetic features of the AIEC pathotype, including 41 genomic islands, and unique genes that are found only in strains exhibiting the adherent and invasive phenotype.
Conclusions: Up to now, the virulence-like features associated with AIEC are detectable only phenotypically. AIEC genome sequence data will facilitate the identification of genetic determinants implicated in invasion and intracellular growth, as well as enable functional genomic studies of AIEC gene expression during health and disease.