Murine models of urinary tract infection (UTI) have provided substantial data identifying uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) virulence factors and assessing their expression in vivo. However, it is unclear how gene expression in these animal models compares to UPEC gene expression during UTI in humans. To address this, we used a UPEC strain CFT073-specific microarray to measure global gene expression in eight E. coli isolates monitored directly from the urine of eight women presenting at a clinic with bacteriuria. The resulting gene expression profiles were compared to those of the same E. coli isolates cultured statically to exponential phase in pooled, sterilized human urine ex vivo. Known fitness factors, including iron acquisition and peptide transport systems, were highly expressed during human UTI and support a model in which UPEC replicates rapidly in vivo. While these findings were often consistent with previous data obtained from the murine UTI model, host-specific differences were observed. Most strikingly, expression of type 1 fimbrial genes, which are among the most highly expressed genes during murine experimental UTI and encode an essential virulence factor for this experimental model, was undetectable in six of the eight E. coli strains from women with UTI. Despite the lack of type 1 fimbrial expression in the urine samples, these E. coli isolates were generally capable of expressing type 1 fimbriae in vitro and highly upregulated fimA upon experimental murine infection. The findings presented here provide insight into the metabolic and pathogenic profile of UPEC in urine from women with UTI and represent the first transcriptome analysis for any pathogenic E. coli during a naturally occurring infection in humans.
Animal models of infection have been used extensively to study how bacteria and other pathogens cause disease. These models provide valuable information and have led to the development of numerous vaccines and antimicrobial therapies. However, it is important to recognize how these animal models compare to human infection and to understand how bacteria cause disease in humans. This study measured gene expression in E. coli, a major cause of urinary tract infection, immediately after collection from the urine of women with bladder infection symptoms. The data showed that E. coli gene expression in the urine from women with urinary tract infection was very often similar to what had been observed in a mouse model, but these studies also identified several potentially important differences, including a bacterial surface structure that is necessary for infection in mice but not detected in most E. coli in human urine. Although more precise measurements are still needed, these findings contribute to our understanding of bacterial infection in humans and will help in the development of vaccines and treatments for urinary tract infection.