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Bacteria’s shapeshifting behaviour clue to new treatments for urinary tract infections

Shape-changing behavior of bacteria pointing to new treatments for urinary tract infections

UPEC filaments expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) after desquamation of bladder cells, captured by epi-fluorescence microscopy. Credit: Australian Institute of Microbiology and Infection, University of Technology Sydney

Urinary tract infections are both very common and potentially very dangerous. More than half of all Australian women will develop a urinary tract infection in their lifetime, and nearly one in three women will have an infection that requires antibiotic treatment before the age of 24.

About 80 percent of urinary tract infections are caused by uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), which is increasingly resistant to antibiotics. E. coli-related death due to antimicrobial resistance is the leading cause of bacterial deaths worldwide.

In an effort to discover new treatment options, researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) are using state-of-the-art microscopy to determine how these bacteria spread and multiply.

dr. Bill Söderström and associate professor Iain Duggin, of the Australian Institute for Microbiology and Infection at UTS, said their latest study examined UPEC’s shape-shifting behavior. During a UTI infection cycle, the bacteria form spaghetti-like filaments hundreds of times larger than their normal length before returning to their original shape.

The study, published in nature communicationused an infection model of human bladder cells to generate the filaments and watch their reversal back to rod shape.

“While we don’t fully understand why they’re doing this extreme lifestyle makeover, we know they need to return to their original size before they can re-infect new bladder cells,” said Dr. Soderstrom.

“We used advanced microscopy to monitor two important cell division proteins and their localization dynamics during reversal. We found that the normal rules for regulating cell division in bacteria do not fully apply in filaments,” said Dr. Soderstrom.

“By providing the first clues about how filamentation reversal is regulated during infection, we can lay the groundwork for identifying new ways to combat UTIs.”

Associate professor Duggin said the long filaments formed by the bacteria seemed to break open the infected human cells, through a previously unknown mechanism called infection-related filamentation (IRF).

“The devastating eruption of these bacteria from the cells of the bladder that they invade is likely to contribute to the extensive damage and pain experienced during a UTI,” Associate Professor Duggin said.

“Our goal is to establish why and how the bacteria perform this remarkable feat in hopes of enabling alternative treatments or preventions.”


Recurring UTIs Linked to Hidden Reservoir


More information:
Bill Söderström et al, Assembly dynamics of FtsZ and DamX during infection-related filamentation and division in uropathogenic E. coli, nature communication (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-31378-1

Provided by University of Technology, Sydney


Quote: Shape-shifting behavior of bacteria clue to new treatments for urinary tract infections (2022, June 28) retrieved June 28, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-bacteria-shapeshifting-behaviour-clue-treatments.html

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