Comparative genomics and transcriptomics of Escherichia coli isolates carrying virulence factors of both enteropathogenic and enterotoxigenic E. coli

Sci Rep. 2017 Jun 14;7(1):3513. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-03489-z.


Escherichia coli that are capable of causing human disease are often classified into pathogenic variants (pathovars) based on their virulence gene content. However, disease-associated hybrid E. coli, containing unique combinations of multiple canonical virulence factors have also been described. Such was the case of the E. coli O104:H4 outbreak in 2011, which caused significant morbidity and mortality. Among the pathovars of diarrheagenic E. coli that cause significant human disease are the enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) and enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC). In the current study we use comparative genomics, transcriptomics, and functional studies to characterize isolates that contain virulence factors of both EPEC and ETEC. Based on phylogenomic analysis, these hybrid isolates are more genomically-related to EPEC, but appear to have acquired ETEC virulence genes. Global transcriptional analysis using RNA sequencing, demonstrated that the EPEC and ETEC virulence genes of these hybrid isolates were differentially-expressed under virulence-inducing laboratory conditions, similar to reference isolates. Immunoblot assays further verified that the virulence gene products were produced and that the T3SS effector EspB of EPEC, and heat-labile toxin of ETEC were secreted. These findings document the existence and virulence potential of an E. coli pathovar hybrid that blurs the distinction between E. coli pathovars.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli / isolation & purification*
  • Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology*
  • Escherichia coli O104 / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli O104 / isolation & purification*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genomics
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Virulence Factors / analysis
  • Virulence Factors / genetics*


  • Virulence Factors