Previous urinary tract infections (UTIs) can predispose one to future infections; however, the underlying mechanisms affecting recurrence are poorly understood. We previously found that UTIs in mice cause differential bladder epithelial (urothelial) remodelling, depending on disease outcome, that impacts susceptibility to recurrent UTI. Here we compared urothelial stem cell (USC) lines isolated from mice with a history of either resolved or chronic uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) infection, elucidating evidence of molecular imprinting that involved epigenetic changes, including differences in chromatin accessibility, DNA methylation and histone modification. Epigenetic marks in USCs from chronically infected mice enhanced caspase-1-mediated cell death upon UPEC infection, promoting bacterial clearance. Increased Ptgs2os2 expression also occurred, potentially contributing to sustained cyclooxygenase-2 expression, bladder inflammation and mucosal wounding-responses associated with severe recurrent cystitis. Thus, UPEC infection acts as an epi-mutagen reprogramming the urothelial epigenome, leading to urothelial-intrinsic remodelling and training of the innate response to subsequent infection.
© 2023. The Author(s).