Ability of Escherichia coli isolates that cause meningitis in newborns to invade epithelial and endothelial cells

Author(s): Meier C, Oelschlaeger TA, Merkert H, Korhonen TK, Hacker J


Escherichia coli isolates that cause meningitis in newborns are able to invade the circulation and subsequently cross the blood-brain barrier. One mechanism for traversing the blood-brain barrier might involve transcytosis through the endothelial cells. The ability of the meningitis isolate E. coli IHE3034, of serotype 018:K1:H7, to invade epithelial (T24) and endothelial (EA-hy926) cells was investigated by the standard gentamicin survival assay and by electron microscopy. Human bladder epithelial and endothelial cells were efficiently invaded by strain IHE3034, whereas epithelial human colon Caco-2 cells, canine kidney MDCK cells, and the opossum [correction of opposum] epithelial kidney cell line OK were not invaded. The ability to invade human epithelial cells of the bladder could also be demonstrated for several other newborn meningitis E. coli strains and one septicemic E. coli strain. Studies utilizing inhibitors which act on eukaryotic cells revealed a dependence on microfilaments as well as on microtubules in the process of E. coli IHE3034 entry into T24 and EA-hy926 cells. These results indicated that cell cytoskeletal rearrangements are involved in bacterial uptake and suggest that there are either two pathways (microtubule dependent and microfilament dependent) or one complex pathway involving both microtubules and microfilaments. The intracellular IHE3034 organisms were contained in a host-membrane-confined compartment mainly as single microorganisms. Intracellular replication of 1HE3034 was not detected, nor did the number of intracellular bacteria decrease significantly during a 48-h period. The ability of E. coli O18:K1 to invade and survive within certain eukaryotic cells may be another virulence factor of meningitis-associated E. coli.

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