Unravelling the roles of Shiga toxin and Shiga toxin-encoding bacteriophages in Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 colonisation of the bovine intestine
Ahmad, Nur Indah Binti
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Shiga toxin (Stx) is a bacteriophage (phage)-encoded virulence factor of the Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 implicated in the pathogenesis of renal tissue damage and bloody diarrhoea in human. Cattle are the main asymptomatic reservoir for EHEC O157:H7 with the lymphoid-follicle rich areas of the terminal rectum identified as the primary colonisation site. However, the significance of Stx during bovine intestinal colonisation by EHEC O157:H7 remains unclear with mixed findings described in published studies. The objective of this study was to investigate if Stx and the Stx-encoding phage significantly contribute to EHEC O157:H7 colonisation particularly at the bovine terminal rectum. The expression of Stx receptor, Globotrioasylceramide (Gb3) at the bovine terminal rectum was analysed by fluorescence microscopy, revealing a similar pattern of Gb3 detection in the bovine colon with scattered positive detections limited to sub-epithelial, mesenchymal-associated cells. Purified Stx2 treatment of Gb3+ and Gb3- epithelial cell lines for 6 to 18 hours produced no effect on the cell cycle and proliferation. CD3+/CD8+, CD3+/γδ+ and CD21+ cells were significantly different between calves infected with EHEC O157:H7 Strain 9000 (Stx2a+/Stx2c+) and the uninfected calves, but not in calves with Strain 10671 (Stx2c+). Stx did not interfere with IFN-gamma (IFN-γ)-activation of the JAK/STAT1 pathway in epithelial cells. Bovine EHEC O157:H7 strains isolated from Scottish cattle farms in the IPRAVE study (Phage type 21/28 and 32) were used for a series of bacterial phenotypic characterisation assays. Total Stx production, Verocytotoxicity, growth in a competitive environment, epithelial cell adherence and Galleria mellonella virulence assay were performed to compare the IPRAVE EHEC O157:H7 strains (PT21/28 and PT32) and the isogenic Stx-phage mutants. Stx levels produced by the bovine-originated EHEC O157:H7 strains were significantly lower than that of the human isolated strains. The absence of Gb3 on the bovine terminal rectal epithelium, the non-significant changes in the cell cycle along with the uninterrupted IFN-γ activation of the JAK/STAT1 pathway in intestinal epithelial cells and the minute quantities of Stx generated by EHEC O157:H7 bovine strains suggest that the toxin is not involved in colonisation directly, at least at the intestinal epithelial level. Although future work is required to explain the mechanisms underlying the observed EHEC O157:H7 phenotypic changes particularly in the Stx-phage mutant strains, the work done has proven that the Stx-encoding phage indeed has the ability to exert changes in the bacterial cell leading to changes in bacterial phenotypes, which in turn, might affect the colonisation of the bovine intestine.