Pathogenicity islands, plasmids and iron uptake systems in extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli strains


  • Marjanca Starčič Erjavec
  • Tanja Arbiter
  • Darja Žgur Bertok



extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli, ExPEC, pathogenicity island, PAI, plasmid, iron uptake


The aim of the presented study was to estimate the prevalence, distribution and associations of different pathogenicity islands (PAI I536 to PAI IV536, PAI IJ96, PAI IIJ96, PAI ICFT073 and PAI IICFT073), iron uptake systems (genes iutA, iucD, iroN, iroCD, fyuA, irp2, iha, ireA, and hbp) and plasmids among extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) strains isolated from Slovenian patients. Twenty-nine ExPEC isolates obtained from the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, Medical Faculty, University of Ljubljana were investigated for the presence of different pathogenicity islands and iron uptake systems with PCR, the plasmid content of the
investigated strains was determined by molecular biology techniques. The significance of the found associations of the studied PAIs and iron uptake systems was analyzed with the Fisher’s exact test. PAI IV536 was found in 19, PAI II CFT073 in 6, PAI ICFT073 in 4, and PAI IIJ96 in one of the studied isolates. PAI I536, PAI II536, PAI III536 and PAI IJ96 were not detected in any studied isolate. In 19 of the studied isolates plasmids were detected. The irp2 was found in 20, fyuA in 19, iucD and iutA in 12, iha in 9, iroN in 8, iroCD in 7, ireA in 7 and hbp in 4 of studied isolates. PAI IV536 was statistically significantly associated with the yersiniabactin siderophore system and PAI ICFT073 was statistically significantly associated with the aerobactin siderophore system as well as Iha. To our knowledge this is the first report on PAIs and iron uptake systems among Slovenian ExPEC isolates, as well as a first report on PAIs, iron uptake systems and plasmids among isolates from skin and soft tissue infections.


Braun V. & M. Braun 2002: Iron transport and signaling in Escherichia coli. FEBS Lett 529: 78–85. DOI:

Carbonetti N. H. & P. H. Williams 1984: A cluster of five genes specifying the aerobactin iron uptake system of plasmid ColV-K30. Infect Immun 46: 7–12. DOI:

Freitag, T., R. Squires, J. Schmid, & J. Elliott 2005: Feline uropathogenic Escherichia coli from Great Britain and New Zealand have dissimilar virulence factor genotypes. Vet Microbiol 106:79–86. DOI:

Grass G. 2006: Iron transport in Escherichia coli: all has not been said and done. Biometals 19: 159–172. DOI:

Hacker J. & J. B. Kaper 2000: Pathogenicity islands and the evolution of microbes. Annu Rev Microbiol 54: 641–679. DOI:

Helinski D. R., A. E. Toukdarian & R. P. Novick 1996: Replication control and other stable maintenance mechanisms of plasmids. In: Neidhardt F. C. & al. (eds.): Escherichia coli and Salmonella. ASM Press, Washington D.C., pp. 2295–2324.

Henderson I. R. & J. P. Nataro 2001: Virulence functions of autotransporter proteins. Infect Immun 69: 1231–1243. DOI:

Johnson J. R., A. E. Stapleton, T. A. Russo, F. Scheutz, J. J. Brown & J. N. Maslow 1997: Characteristics and prevalence within serogroup O4 of a J96-like clonal group of uropathogenic Escherichia coli O4:H5 containing the class I and class III alleles of papG. Infect Immun 65: 2153–2159. DOI:

Johnson J. & A. Stell 2000. Extended virulence genotypes of Escherichia coli strains from patients with urosepsis in relation to phylogeny and host compromise. J Infect Dis 181: 261–272. DOI:

Johnson J. R., T. A. Russo, P. I. Tarr, U. Carlino, S. S. Bilge, J. C. Vary, Jr. & A. L. Stell 2000: Molecular epidemiological and phylogenetic associations of two novel putative virulence genes, iha and iroN(E. coli), among Escherichia coli isolates from patients with urosepsis. Infect Immun 68: 3040–3047. DOI:

Johnson J., K. Owens, A. Gajewski & M. Kuskowski 2005: Bacterial characteristics in relation to clinical source of Escherichia coli isolates from women with acute cystitis or pyelonephritis and uninfected women. J Clin Microbiol 43: 6064–6072. DOI:

Kado C. I. 1998: Origin and evolution of plasmids. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek 73: 117–126. DOI:

Kanamaru S., H. Kurazono, S. Ishitoya, A. Terai, T. Habuchi, M. Nakano, O. Ogawa & S. Yamamoto 2003: Distribution and genetic association of putative uropathogenic virulence factors iroN, iha, kpsMT, ompT and usp in Escherichia coli isolated from urinary tract infections in Japan. J Urol 170: 2490–2493. DOI:

Kaper, J., J. Nataro & H. Mobley 2004: Pathogenic Escherichia coli. Nat Rev Microbiol 2: 123–140. DOI:

Le Bouguenec C., M. Archambaud & A. Labigne 1992: Rapid and specific detection of the pap, afa, and sfa adhesin-encoding operons in uropathogenic Escherichia coli strains by polymerase chain reaction. J Clin Microbiol 30: 1189–1193. DOI:

Lloyd A. L., D. A. Rasko & H. L. Mobley 2007: Defining genomic islands and uropathogen-specific genes in uropathogenic Escherichia coli. J Bacteriol 189: 3532–3546. DOI:

Otto B. R., S. J. van Dooren, J. H. Nuijens, J. Luirink & B. Oudega 1998. Characterization of a hemoglobin protease secreted by the pathogenic Escherichia coli strain EB1. J Exp Med 188: 1091–1103. DOI:

Otto B. R., S. J. van Dooren, C. M. Dozois, J. Luirink & B. Oudega 2002. Escherichia coli hemoglobin protease autotransporter contributes to synergistic abscess formation and heme-dependent growth of Bacteroides fragilis. Infect Immun 70:5–10. DOI:

Russo T. & J. Johnson 2000. Proposal for a new inclusive designation for extraintestinal pathogenic isolates of Escherichia coli: ExPEC. J Infect Dis 181: 1753–1754. DOI:

Russo T. A., U. B. Carlino & J. R. Johnson 2001: Identification of a new iron-regulated virulence gene, ireA, in an extraintestinal pathogenic isolate of Escherichia coli: Infect Immun 69: 6209–6216. DOI:

Sabate M., E. Moreno, T. Perez, A. Andreu & G. Prats 2006: Pathogenicity island markers in commensal and uropathogenic Escherichia coli isolates. Clin Microbiol Infect 12: 880–886. DOI:

Sambrook J. & D. Russell 2001: Molecular cloning: A laboratory manual. CSHL Press, New York. Schaible U. E. & S. H. Kaufmann 2004: Iron and microbial infection. Nat Rev Microbiol 2: 946–953. DOI:

Schmidt H. & M. Hensel 2004: Pathogenicity islands in bacterial pathogenesis. Clin Microbiol Rev 17: 14–56. DOI:

Schubert S., A. Rakin, H. Karch, E. Carniel & J. Heesemann 1998: Prevalence of the »high-pathogenicity island« of Yersinia species among Escherichia coli strains that are pathogenic to humans.: Infect Immun 66: 480–485. DOI:

Sorsa L. J., S. Dufke, J. Heesemann & S. Schubert 2003: Characterization of an iroBCDEN gene cluster on a transmissible plasmid of uropathogenic Escherichia coli: evidence for horizontal transfer of a chromosomal virulence factor. Infect Immun 71: 3285–3293. DOI:

Wiles T. J., R. R. Kulesus & M. A. Mulvey 2008: Origins and virulence mechanisms of uropathogenic Escherichia coli. Exp Mol Pathol 85: 11–19. DOI:

Yamamoto S., A. Terai, K. Yuri, H. Kurazono, Y. Takeda & O. Yoshida 1995: Detection of urovirulence factors in Escherichia coli by multiplex polymerase chain reaction. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 12: 85–90. DOI:






Original Research Paper

How to Cite

Starčič Erjavec, M., Arbiter, T., & Žgur Bertok, D. (2009). Pathogenicity islands, plasmids and iron uptake systems in extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli strains. Acta Biologica Slovenica, 52(2), 73-83.

Similar Articles

1-10 of 41

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.