Urinary tract infections are among the most common human bacterial infections and place a significant burden on healthcare systems due to associated morbidity, cost and antibiotic use. Despite being a facultative anaerobe, uropathogenic Escherichia coli, the primary cause of urinary tract infections, requires aerobic respiration to establish infection in the bladder. Here, by combining bacterial genetics with cell culture and murine models of infection, we demonstrate that the widely conserved respiratory quinol oxidase cytochrome bd is required for intracellular infection of urothelial cells. Through a series of genetic, biochemical and functional assays, we show that intracellular oxygen scavenging by cytochrome bd alters mitochondrial physiology by reducing the efficiency of mitochondrial respiration, stabilizing the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor HIF-1 and promoting a shift towards aerobic glycolysis. This bacterially induced rewiring of host metabolism antagonizes apoptosis, thereby protecting intracellular bacteria from urothelial cell exfoliation and preserving their replicative niche. These results reveal the metabolic basis for intracellular bacterial pathogenesis during urinary tract infection and identify subversion of mitochondrial metabolism as a bacterial strategy to facilitate persistence within the urinary tract.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.