The enteric pathogen enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) is responsible for outbreaks of bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) worldwide. Several molecular mechanisms have been described for the pathogenicity of EHEC; however, the role of bacterial metabolism in the virulence of EHEC during infection in vivo remains unclear. Here we show that aerobic metabolism plays an important role in the regulation of EHEC virulence in Caenorhabditis elegans. Our functional genomic analyses showed that disruption of the genes encoding the succinate dehydrogenase complex (Sdh) of EHEC, including the sdhA gene, attenuated its toxicity toward C. elegans animals. Sdh converts succinate to fumarate and links the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and the electron transport chain (ETC) simultaneously. Succinate accumulation and fumarate depletion in the EHEC sdhA mutant cells were also demonstrated to be concomitant by metabolomic analyses. Moreover, fumarate replenishment to the sdhA mutant significantly increased its virulence toward C. elegans. These results suggest that the TCA cycle, ETC, and alteration in metabolome all account for the attenuated toxicity of the sdhA mutant, and Sdh catabolite fumarate in particular plays a critical role in the regulation of EHEC virulence. In addition, we identified the tryptophanase (TnaA) as a downstream virulence determinant of SdhA using a label-free proteomic method. We demonstrated that expression of tnaA is regulated by fumarate in EHEC. Taken together, our multi-omic analyses demonstrate that sdhA is required for the virulence of EHEC, and aerobic metabolism plays important roles in the pathogenicity of EHEC infection in C. elegans. Moreover, our study highlights the potential targeting of SdhA, if druggable, as alternative preventive or therapeutic strategies by which to combat EHEC infection.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology
- Cancer Research