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Epigenetic mechanisms regulate innate immunity against uropathogenic and commensal-like Escherichia coli in the surrogate insect model Galleria mellonella

: Heitmueller, M.; Billion, A.; Dobrindt, U.; Vilcinskas, A.; Mukherjee, K.


Infection and Immunity 85 (2017), Nr.10, Art. e00336-17
ISSN: 0019-9567
ISSN: 1098-5522
Fraunhofer IME ()

Innate-immunity-related genes in humans are activated during urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli but are suppressed by commensals. Epigenetic mechanisms play a pivotal role in the regulation of gene expression in response to environmental stimuli. To determine whether epigenetic mechanisms can explain the different behaviors of pathogenic and commensal bacteria, we infected larvae of the greater wax moth, Galleria mellonella, a widely used model insect host, with a uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) strain that causes symptomatic UTIs in humans or a commensal-like strain that causes asymptomatic bacteriuria (ABU). Infection with the UPEC strain (CFT073) was more lethal to larvae than infection with the attenuated ABU strain (83972) due to the recognition of each strain by different Toll-like receptors, ultimately leading to differential DNA/RNA methylation and histone acetylation. We used next-generation sequencing and reverse transcription (RT)-PCR to correlate epigenetic changes with the induction of innate-immunity-related genes. Transcriptomic analysis of G. mellonella larvae infected with E. coli strains CFT073 and 83972 revealed strainspecific variations in the class and expression levels of genes encoding antimicrobial peptides, cytokines, and enzymes controlling DNA methylation and histone acetylation. Our results provide evidence for the differential epigenetic regulation of transcriptional reprogramming by UPEC and ABU strains of E. coli in G. mellonella larvae, which may be relevant to understanding the different behaviors of these bacterial strains in the human urinary tract.