Bachelor of Science, Georgia State University (2005)
Doctor of Philosophy, Washington University (2012)
John Boothroyd, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
How do sporozoites, the product of sexual reproduction of Toxoplasma, co-opt host cell functions to initiate an infection in a new intermediate host? [Sporozoites express a very different arsenal of secreted proteins many of which are expected to serve as "effectors" that alter host cell function in ways beneficial to the invading parasite.]
Enterococcus faecalis is part of the human intestinal microbiome and is a prominent cause of health care-associated infections. The pathogenesis of many E. faecalis infections, including endocarditis and catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI), is related to the ability of clinical isolates to form biofilms. To identify chromosomal genetic determinants responsible for E. faecalis biofilm-mediated infection, we used a rabbit model of endocarditis to test strains with transposon insertions or in-frame deletions in biofilm-associated loci: ahrC, argR, atlA, opuBC, pyrC, recN, and sepF. Only the ahrC mutant was significantly attenuated in endocarditis. We demonstrate that the transcriptional regulator AhrC and the protease Eep, which we showed previously to be an endocarditis virulence factor, are also required for full virulence in murine CAUTI. Therefore, AhrC and Eep can be classified as enterococcal biofilm-associated virulence factors. Loss of ahrC caused defects in early attachment and accumulation of biofilm biomass. Characterization of ahrC transcription revealed that the temporal expression of this locus observed in wild-type cells promotes initiation of early biofilm formation and the establishment of endocarditis. This is the first report of AhrC serving as a virulence factor in any bacterial species.
View details for DOI 10.1128/IAI.01210-12
View details for Web of Science ID 000317582700032
View details for PubMedID 23460519
Urinary catheterization elicits major histological and immunological changes that render the bladder susceptible to microbial invasion, colonization, and dissemination. However, it is not understood how catheters induce these changes, how these changes act to promote infection, or whether they may have any protective benefit. In the present study, we examined how catheter-associated inflammation impacts infection by Enterococcus faecalis, a leading cause of catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI), a source of significant societal and clinical challenges. Using a recently optimized murine model of foreign body-associated UTI, we found that the implanted catheter itself was the primary inducer of inflammation. In the absence of the silicone tubing implant, E. faecalis induced only minimal inflammation and was rapidly cleared from the bladder. The catheter-induced inflammation was only minimally altered by subsequent enterococcal infection and was not suppressed by inhibitors of the neurogenic pathway and only partially by dexamethasone. Despite the robust inflammatory response induced by urinary implantation, E. faecalis produced biofilm and high bladder titers in these animals. Induction of inflammation in the absence of an implanted catheter failed to promote infection, suggesting that the presence of the catheter itself is essential for E. faecalis persistence in the bladder. Immunosuppression prior to urinary catheterization enhanced E. faecalis colonization, suggesting that implant-mediated inflammation contributes to the control of enterococcal infection. Thus, this study underscores the need for novel strategies against CAUTIs that seek to reduce the deleterious effects of implant-mediated inflammation on bladder homeostasis while maintaining an active immune response that effectively limits bacterial invaders.
View details for DOI 10.1128/IAI.00856-12
View details for Web of Science ID 000316298000034
View details for PubMedID 23132492
Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) constitute the majority of nosocomial urinary tract infections (UTIs) and pose significant clinical challenges. These infections are polymicrobial in nature and are often associated with multidrug-resistant pathogens, including uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC). Urinary catheterization elicits major histological and immunological alterations in the bladder that can favor microbial colonization and dissemination in the urinary tract. We report that these biological perturbations impact UPEC pathogenesis and that bacterial reservoirs established during a previous UPEC infection, in which bacteriuria had resolved, can serve as a nidus for subsequent urinary catheter colonization. Mannosides, small molecule inhibitors of the type 1 pilus adhesin, FimH, provided significant protection against UPEC CAUTI by preventing bacterial invasion and shifting the UPEC niche primarily to the extracellular milieu and on the foreign body. By doing so, mannosides potentiated the action of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole in the prevention and treatment of CAUTI. In this study, we provide novel insights into UPEC pathogenesis in the context of urinary catheterization, and demonstrate the efficacy of novel therapies that target critical mechanisms for this infection. Thus, we establish a proof-of-principle for the development of mannosides to prevent and eventually treat these infections in the face of rising antibiotic-resistant uropathogens.
View details for DOI 10.1128/AAC.00447-12
View details for Web of Science ID 000307908600023
View details for PubMedID 22733070
Though the bacterial opportunist Enterococcus faecalis causes a myriad of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), including catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), little is known about the virulence mechanisms that it employs. However, the endocarditis- and biofilm-associated pilus (Ebp), a member of the sortase-assembled pilus family, was shown to play a role in a mouse model of E. faecalis ascending UTI. The Ebp pilus comprises the major EbpC shaft subunit and the EbpA and EbpB minor subunits. We investigated the biogenesis and function of Ebp pili in an experimental model of CAUTI using a panel of chromosomal pilin deletion mutants. A nonpiliated pilus knockout mutant (EbpABC(-) strain) was severely attenuated compared to its isogenic parent OG1RF in experimental CAUTI. In contrast, a nonpiliated ebpC deletion mutant (EbpC(-) strain) behaved similarly to OG1RF in vivo because it expressed EbpA and EbpB. Deletion of the minor pilin gene ebpA or ebpB perturbed pilus biogenesis and led to defects in experimental CAUTI. We discovered that the function of Ebp pili in vivo depended on a predicted metal ion-dependent adhesion site (MIDAS) motif in EbpA's von Willebrand factor A domain, a common protein domain among the tip subunits of sortase-assembled pili. Thus, this study identified the Ebp pilus as a virulence factor in E. faecalis CAUTI and also defined the molecular basis of this function, critical knowledge for the rational development of targeted therapeutics.Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), one of the most common hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), present considerable treatment challenges for physicians. Inherently resistant to several classes of antibiotics and with a propensity to acquire vancomycin resistance, enterococci are particularly worrisome etiologic agents of CAUTI. A detailed understanding of the molecular basis of Enterococcus faecalis pathogenesis in CAUTI is necessary for the development of preventative and therapeutic strategies. Our results elucidated the importance of the E. faecalis Ebp pilus and its subunits for enterococcal virulence in a mouse model of CAUTI. We further showed that the metal ion-dependent adhesion site (MIDAS) motif in EbpA is necessary for Ebp function in vivo. As this motif occurs in other sortase-assembled pili, our results have implications for the molecular basis of virulence not only in E. faecalis CAUTI but also in additional infections caused by enterococci and other Gram-positive pathogens.
View details for DOI 10.1128/mBio.00177-12
View details for Web of Science ID 000308588800020
View details for PubMedID 22829678
Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) constitute the majority of nosocomial UTIs and pose significant clinical challenges. Enterococcal species are among the predominant causative agents of CAUTIs. However, very little is known about the pathophysiology of Enterococcus-mediated UTIs. We optimized a murine model of foreign body-associated UTI in order to mimic conditions of indwelling catheters in patients. In this model, the presence of a foreign body elicits major histological changes and induces the expression of several proinflammatory cytokines in the bladder. In addition, in contrast to naïve mice, infection of catheter-implanted mice with Enterococcus faecalis induced the specific expression of interleukin 1? (IL-1?) and macrophage inflammatory protein 1? (MIP-1?) in the bladder. These responses resulted in a favorable niche for the development of persistent E. faecalis infections in the murine bladders and kidneys. Furthermore, biofilm formation on the catheter implant in vivo correlated with persistent infections. However, the enterococcal autolytic factors GelE and Atn (also known as AtlA), which are important in biofilm formation in vitro, are dispensable in vivo. In contrast, the housekeeping sortase A (SrtA) is critical for biofilm formation and virulence in CAUTIs. Overall, this murine model represents a significant advance in the understanding of CAUTIs and underscores the importance of urinary catheterization during E. faecalis uropathogenesis. This model is also a valuable tool for the identification of virulence determinants that can serve as potential antimicrobial targets for the treatment of enterococcal infections.
View details for DOI 10.1128/IAI.00711-10
View details for Web of Science ID 000282004200008
View details for PubMedID 20696830
Biofilm production is a major attribute of Enterococcus faecalis clinical isolates. Although some factors, such as sortases, autolysin, and extracellular DNA (eDNA), have been associated with E. faecalis biofilm production, the mechanisms underlying the contributions of these factors to this process have not been completely elucidated yet. In this study we define important roles for the major E. faecalis autolysin (Atn), eDNA, and sortase A (SrtA) during the developmental stages of biofilm formation under static and hydrodynamic conditions. Deletion of srtA affects the attachment stage and results in a deficiency in biofilm production. Atn-deficient mutants are delayed in biofilm development due to defects in primary adherence and DNA release, which we show to be particularly important during the accumulative phase for maturation and architectural stability of biofilms. Confocal laser scanning and freeze-dry electron microscopy of biofilms grown under hydrodynamic conditions revealed that E. faecalis produces a DNase I-sensitive fibrous network, which is important for biofilm stability and is absent in atn-deficient mutant biofilms. This study establishes the stage-specific requirements for SrtA and Atn and demonstrates a role for Atn in the pathway leading to DNA release during biofilm development in E. faecalis.
View details for DOI 10.1128/IAI.00219-09
View details for Web of Science ID 000269947200012
View details for PubMedID 19528211