Norepinephrine induced growth and expression of virulence associated factors in enterotoxigenic and enterohemorrhagic strains of Escherichia coli

Adv Exp Med Biol. 1997;412:331-9. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4899-1828-4_54.


The small intestine is richly innervated by the sympathetic nervous system. High concentrations of monoamines, most notably norepinephrine, are found throughout the various intestinal layers. In order to determine whether norepinephrine is capable of influencing bacterial pathogenesis, the growth and production of virulence factors in ETEC and EHEC were examined in a physiologically relevant medium utilizing very low initial bacterial inoculums to more closely mimie in vivo conditions. The growth of ETEC strain B44 and the production of the K99 pilus adhesin on a protein equivalent basis was greatly increased in the presence of norepinephrine. Growth of EHEC O157:H7 was also increased in norepinephrine containing medium as well as production of SLT-I and SLT-II. The ability of norepinephrine to increase both bacterial growth and expression of virulence factors was shown to be non-nutritional in nature. Given the abundant adrenergic innervation in the small intestine, these in vitro results suggest that the neurohumoral environment of the host may play a role in bacterial growth and expression of virulence factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Surface / biosynthesis*
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Bacterial Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Bacterial Toxins / biosynthesis
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development*
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity*
  • Escherichia coli O157 / growth & development*
  • Escherichia coli O157 / pathogenicity*
  • Intestines / innervation
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Norepinephrine / pharmacology*
  • Normetanephrine / pharmacology
  • Shiga Toxin 1
  • Shiga Toxin 2


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • K99 antigen
  • Shiga Toxin 1
  • Shiga Toxin 2
  • Normetanephrine
  • Norepinephrine