Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is a leading cause of moderate to severe diarrhea among young children in developing countries, and EPEC isolates can be subdivided into two groups. Typical EPEC (tEPEC) bacteria are characterized by the presence of both the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) and the plasmid-encoded bundle-forming pilus (BFP), which are involved in adherence and translocation of type III effectors into the host cells. Atypical EPEC (aEPEC) bacteria also contain the LEE but lack the BFP. In the current report, we describe the complete genome of outbreak-associated aEPEC isolate E110019, which carries four plasmids. Comparative genomic analysis demonstrated that the type III secreted effector EspT gene, an autotransporter gene, a hemolysin gene, and putative fimbrial genes are all carried on plasmids. Further investigation of 65 espT-containing E. coli genomes demonstrated that different espT alleles are associated with multiple plasmids that differ in their overall gene content from the E110019 espT-containing plasmid. EspT has been previously described with respect to its role in the ability of E110019 to invade host cells. While other type III secreted effectors of E. coli have been identified on insertion elements and prophages of the chromosome, we demonstrated in the current study that the espT gene is located on multiple unique plasmids. These findings highlight a role of plasmids in dissemination of a unique E. coli type III secreted effector that is involved in host invasion and severe diarrheal illness.
Keywords: E. coli; EPEC; EspT; enteropathogenic; plasmids; type III secretion.
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