Escherichia coli isolates from inflammatory bowel diseases patients survive in macrophages and activate NLRP3 inflammasome

Marjorie De la Fuente, Luigi Franchi, Daniela Araya, David Díaz-Jiménez, Mauricio Olivares, Manuel Álvarez-Lobos, Douglas Golenbock, María Julieta González, Francisco López-Kostner, Rodrigo Quera, Gabriel Núñez, Roberto Vidal, Marcela A. Hermoso*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Crohn's disease (CD) is a multifactorial pathology associated with the presence of adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) and NLRP3 polymorphic variants. The presence of intracellular E. coli in other intestinal pathologies (OIP) and the role of NLRP3-inflammasome in the immune response activated by these bacteria have not been investigated. In this study, we sought to characterize intracellular strains isolated from patients with CD, ulcerative colitis (UC) and OIP, and analyze NLRP3-inflammasome role in the immune response and bactericidal activity induced in macrophages exposed to invasive bacteria. For this, intracellular E. coli isolation from ileal biopsies, using gentamicin-protection assay, revealed a prevalence and CFU/biopsy of E. coli higher in biopsies from CD, UC and OIP patients than in controls. To characterize bacterial isolates, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns, virulence genes, serogroup and phylogenetic group were analyzed. We found out that bacteria isolated from a given patient were closely related and shared virulence factors; however, strains from different patients were genetically heterogeneous. AIEC characteristics in isolated strains, such as invasive and replicative properties, were assessed in epithelial cells and macrophages, respectively. Some strains from CD and UC demonstrated AIEC properties, but not strains from OIP. Furthermore, the role of NLRP3 in pro-inflammatory cytokines production and bacterial elimination was determined in macrophages. E. coli strains induced IL-1β through NLRP3-dependent mechanism; however, their elimination by macrophages was independent of NLRP3. Invasiveness of intracellular E. coli strains into the intestinal mucosa and IL-1β production may contribute to CD and UC pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-392
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Microbiology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Miguel ÓRyan for her helpful critical reading of the manuscript and Alfredo Torres for providing us the NRG857c sequenced AIEC strain. Funding support from FONDECYT 1120577 (MH), FONDECYT 1110260 (R.V.), PI2012-DA015 CLC, PI2010-DA CLC (R.Q.) , National Institutes of Health grants AI063331 and AI064748 (G.N.) and MECESUP UCH 0714 and CONICYT fellowships (M.D.L.F.).


  • Crohn's disease
  • E. coli
  • IL-1β
  • Inflammasome
  • NLRP3


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