Augmentation of Urinary Lactoferrin Enhances Host Innate Immune Clearance of Uropathogenic Escherichia coli

J Innate Immun. 2019;11(6):481-495. doi: 10.1159/000499342. Epub 2019 May 3.


Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a prominent global health care burden. Although UTI is readily treated with antibiotics in healthy adults, complicated cases in immune-compromised individuals and the emerging antibiotic resistance of several uropathogens have accelerated the need for new treatment strategies. Here, we surveyed the composition of urinary exosomes in a mouse model of uropathgenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) UTI to identify specific urinary tract defense constituents for therapeutic development. We found an enrichment of the iron-binding glycoprotein lactoferrin in the urinary exosomes of infected mice. In subsequent in vitro studies, we identified human bladder epithelial cells as a source of lactoferrin during UPEC infection. We further established that exogenous treatment with human lactoferrin (hLf) reduces UPEC epithelial adherence and enhances neutrophil antimicrobial functions including bacterial killing and extracellular trap production. Notably, a single intravesicular dose of hLf drastically reduced bladder bacterial burden and neutrophil infiltration in our murine UTI model. We propose that lactoferrin is an important modulator of innate immune responses in the urinary tract and has potential application in novel therapeutic design for UTI.

Keywords: Innate immunity; Lactoferrin; Neutrophil; Urinary tract infection; Urine exosomes; Uropathogenic Escherichia coli.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Escherichia coli Infections / immunology*
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Traps / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Lactoferrin / urine*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Urinary Bladder / immunology*
  • Urinary Bladder / microbiology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / immunology*
  • Uropathogenic Escherichia coli / physiology*


  • Iron
  • Lactoferrin