FimH is the tip adhesin of mannose-specific type 1 fimbriae of Escherichia coli, which are critical to the pathogenesis of urinary tract infections. Point FimH mutations increasing monomannose (1M)-specific uroepithelial adhesion are commonly found in uropathogenic strains of E. coli. Here, we demonstrate the emergence of a mixed population of clonally identical E. coli strains in the urine of a patient with acute cystitis, where half of the isolates carried a glycine-to-arginine substitution at position 66 of the mature FimH. The R66 mutation induced an unusually strong 1M-binding phenotype and a 20-fold advantage in mouse bladder colonization. However, E. coli strains carrying FimH-R66, but not the parental FimH-G66, had disappeared from the patient's rectal and urine samples collected from 29 to 44 days later, demonstrating within-host instability of the R66 mutation. No FimH variants with R66 were identified in a large (>600 strains) sequence database of fimH-positive E. coli strains. However, several strains carrying genes encoding FimH with either S66 or C66 mutations appeared to be relatively stable in the E. coli population. Relative to FimH-R66, the FimH-S66 and FimH-C66 variants mediated only moderate increases in 1M binding but preserved the ability to enhance binding under flow-induced shear conditions. In contrast, FimH-R66 completely lost shear-enhanced binding properties, with bacterial adhesion being inhibited by shear forces and lacking a rolling mode of binding. These functional trade-offs may determine the natural populational instability of this mutation or other pathoadaptive FimH mutations that confer dramatic increases in 1M binding strength.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases