Real-Time Toxicity and Metabolic Activity Tracking of Human Cells Exposed to Escherichia coli O157:H7 in a Mixed Consortia


Tingtin Yu, Enolia Marre, Haylie Lam, Steven Ripp, Gary Sayler, Dan Close


Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a significant human pathogen that is continually responsible for sickness, and even death, on a worldwide scale. While the pathology of E. coli O157:H7 infection has been well studied, the effect of it’s multiple resulting cytotoxic mechanisms on host metabolic activity has not been well characterized. To develop a more thorough understanding of these effects, several bioluminescence assays were evaluated for their ability to track both toxicity and host metabolic activity levels in real-time. The use of continuously autobioluminescent human cells was determined to be the most favorable method for tracking these metrics, as its self-sufficient autobioluminescent phenotype was unaffected by the presence of the infecting bacteria and its signal could be measured without cellular destruction. Using this approach, it was determined that infection with as few as 10 CFU of E. coli O157:H7 could elicit cytotoxic effects. Regardless of the initial infective dose, an impact on metabolic expression was not observed until bacterial populations reached levels between 5 × 10(5) and 1 × 10(6) (R(2) = 0.933), indicating that a critical bacterial infection level must be reached prior to the onset of cytotoxic effects. Supporting this hypothesis, it was found that cells displaying infection-mediated metabolic activity reductions could recover to wild type metabolic activity levels if the infecting bacteria were removed prior to cell death. These results indicate that rapid treatment of E. coli O157:H7 infection could serve to limit host metabolic impact and reduce overall host cell death.

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Xu T, Marr E, Lam H, Ripp S, Sayler G, Close D. 2015. Real-time toxicity and metabolic activity tracking of human cells exposed to Escherichia coli O157:H7 in a mixed consortia. Ecotoxicology, doi:10.1007/s10646-015-1552-3.